Review of the Apple TV 4K (2021)

In today’s modern world there are infinite ways of spending free time. You can go for a walk, bike ride, take a hike, or play a sport. If you are more inclined towards a more laid back experience idea you can spend your time chatting via social media using sites like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Clubhouse, and Twitter. Alternatively, you can play games on your iPhone, iPad, or a dedicated gaming console like the Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo Switch. 

Each of the activities listed above is one that typically requires active participation. In today’s “go go go” world, there is the need to take a more passive approach. For these times, you sit down watch a movie or tv show. 

There are a number of different methods of doing just that. While you could use an iPhone or iPad, and many people do, yet there are those times when you want to minimize digital distractions and just focus on the show or movie. 

Almost every television sold today is a Smart TV and in this case “smart” means that it is capable of running applications. For most people, this is an adequate solution. However, there may be those who want a bit more of a nice experience. For those individuals, there are dedicated devices. These can include a Roku Box, an Amazon Fire Stick, or a Google Chromecast stick. Apple has its own solution for this called the Apple TV.

History of Apple TV

Original Apple TV, 1st generation

Back in September of 2006, at its iPod event Apple provided a preview of a brand new product code-named iTV. This product was a modified Mac mini that ran an Intel processor and had an HDMI output as well as component cables. This Mac mini ran a modified version of macOS, at the time named Mac OS X. Having had one of these it did do what it was intended do. When it was introduced, in February of 2007, it was officially named the Apple TV.

The fact that the original Apple TV was introduced at the iPod event was quite appropriate. The original Apple TV was effectively a large iPod. The device had a 4200 RPM hard drive that came in 40GB or 160GB options. Given that the Apple TV was effectively a giant iPod, it was handled just like an iPod. You would connect it to iTunes on your Mac, or PC, and you could then watch your movies and TV shows.

No streaming box is complete without a way of controlling the device. The original Apple TV included a white infrared remote, the same one that was included with the Macs. This remote included a volume up, volume down, fast forward, rewind, a play/pause, in a d-pad configuration, and a menu button directly below that. The remote layout was very reminiscent of the iPod click wheel, although there was no touch surface on it. 

The original Apple TV was not a one and done product, it has definitely had some successors.

2nd Generation Apple TV

2nd Generation Apple TV

It was approximately three years after the release of the original Apple TV when Apple released a new and improved Apple TV, the 2nd Generation Apple TV. This would be a compete rethinking of not only the hardware, but the software. 

The biggest change was that you no longer synchronize media. Instead all media would be streamed. This could be streamed from a computer, or using one of the apps. The operating system also changed from running a version of macOS to running a custom operating system, called Apple TV Software.

The 2nd generation Apple TV switched from the Intel Pentium M processor to a custom Apple processor, the same one that was in the original iPad, the A4. This processor changed a few other things. The size of the Apple TV box shrank from 7.7 inches square, and 1.1 inches high, to 3.9 inches square and 0.9 inches tall. The physical size change required a change from a standard hard drive to a solid state drive.

The second generation Apple TV was a vast improvement over the first generation and set the stage for future Apple TVs. The remote that came with the 2nd Generation Apple TV also changed. It was very similar to the white remote, but it was made of aluminum. It was a bit taller, yet still very functional. 

3rd Generation Apple TV

The 3rd Generation Apple TV was released in 2012, approximately two years after the release of the 2nd generation. The 3rd generation Apple TV was a slight improvement over the previous model. Hardware wise, the processor was swapped to a single-core A5 and twice as much RAM at 512MB. The other change for the hardware was that it supported 1080p, whereas the previous models supported 720p.The physical size of the box remained the same, at 3.9 inches square by 0.9 inches high. The aluminum remote was included with the 3rd generation Apple TV.

4th Generation Apple TV

Apple TV 4K, 5th Generation

In 2015, Apple unveiled the 4th Generation Apple TV was a major shift in not only hardware, but also in software. Let us start with the hardware. 

The first change is the physical size. The Apple TV remained 3.9 inches square, but it was a bit taller, half an inch to be exact, to 1.4 inches high. The internals also changed to use an Apple A8 processor. The A8 process provided a significant improvement over the A5. 

Sometimes it is easier to let benchmarks provide the data. The data is from Geekbench 3:

  A5 A8
Single Core 218 1623
Multi-Core 415 2910
AES Single Core 14,800 Mbps 993,000 mbps
Overall 784 1678

The processor, as well as the solid state storage, was needed to be able to run the software for the device. It was not the standard Apple TV software, it was a new operating system that Apple calls tvOS.

tvOS

tvOS Interface

Previous versions of the Apple TV software was somewhat limited. Not necessarily in its capabilities, but in the fact that the entire experience was controlled by Apple. New apps could not be installed by end users and instead were pushed by Apple. This approach made it a bit easier to add new services as they became available, because it could be pushed form Apple’s servers. The downside to this though, is that there was no control by end users, nor any way for third-parties to add new services.

tvOS changed all of this. Built with the knowledge Apple gained over the years of building iOS, Apple was able to take this knowledge and put all of it into an operating system designed for the largest screen in most homes. 

tvOS is capable of running applications, just like on iOS and watchOS, but these apps are designed to provide games, video service, or other application. The first version of tVOS, tvOS 9, provided an opportunity for third-party application developers to provide their own applications. 

Apps are not the only function that the Apple TV with tvOS is capable of doing.

Home Hub

With so much power in the Apple TV, there may be some extra power available for other tasks. One of these is that the Apple TV can do is be a Home Hub. A Home Hub is a home-based device that can control your HomeKit-enabled devices. The Apple TV is able to function a a central spot for controlling all of your HomeKit devices. The purpose of a HomeKit hub is to make controlling your Smart devices faster.

In order to control the Apple TV you need some sort of way to control the Apple TV. Apple did not include the standard remote with the Apple TV, at least in most markets.  Instead, this new Apple TV required a new remote. Apple called this new remote the Siri Remote.

Siri Remote

The Siri Remote is a remote that is more than just a standard remote. The top third of the Siri Remote is a touch pad, below this are the buttons. There are six, the Menu button, a TV button, a microphone button, a play/pause button, volume up, and volume down. 

The Microphone button is a dedicated button for Siri. Given that tvOS is built on iOS, that means that tvOS has access to Siri. This means that you can ask Siri questions, to find movies or tv shows, and even to control aspects of the Apple TV, like jumping ahead or backwards, or even control your HomeKit-enabled devices. 

The 4th Generation Apple TV was not the last Apple TV model.

Apple TV 4K (5th Generation)

Apple TV 4K, 5th Generation

The 4th Generation Apple TV is a decent set of hardware. However, there was one feature that many users would really like, and that was the ability to watch 4K movies and 4K TV shows. The 5th Generation Apple TV did just this, and Apple named the product the Apple TV 4K. 

The Apple TV 4K was released in September of 2017, just a couple of years after the release of the 4th generation Apple TV. In order to be able to display 4K properly, the processor was upgraded to the A10 Fusion processor. While this did not provide as much of an improvement as from the 3rd generation to the 4th generation, it was still an improvement. 

When the Apple TV 4K was released, the 4th Generation Apple TV remained on sale. This model was retroactively renamed to be the Apple TV HD. This was done in order to more easily differentiate the two models.

Users of the Apple TV HD did have some issues with the Siri Remote. One of the bigger complaints was that the remote was not able to be easily recognize the orientation. In order to help users easily identify the orientation, Apple added a white ring around the Menu button. While this would help, in some respects, it did not appease all users.

At the April 2021 “Spring Loaded” Apple unveiled a new Apple TV 4K, let us look at that now.

Apple TV 4K (6th Generation)

Apple TV 4K 6th Generation Box

The 6th Generation Apple TV 4K improves upon the 5th generation Apple TV. The 6th Generation Apple TV is a minor update, compared to the previous upgrade. The Apple TV 4K keeps the same physical size of 3.7 inches square, by 1.4 inches high. 

What has changed is the internals. The Apple TV 4K now has an A12 Bionic processor.  While it may seem as though a jump of two processor generations, the improvement is quite a bit. For starters the A12 has a total of six cores, two performance cores and four high efficiency cores. This is an increase of two efficiency cores over the A10 Fusion.

While the processor is a significant improvement, that is not the only aspect that has seen improvement. There has also been an improvement to the wireless chipset. Specifically, the new Apple TV 4K supports W-Fi 6, also known as 802.11AX. Wi-Fi 6 can provide even faster connectivity for devices, provided your network is compatible. Even if you do not have a Wi-Fi 6 network, the Apple TV 4K will still be able to connect to other 802.11 networks.

HomeKit Hub

One of the functions of the Apple TV is to act as a HomeKit Hub. As with any new technology, there come competing standards. Some of these are Zigbee and Z-Wave.  These two standards each have their own positives and negatives. One of the requirements of Zigbee and Z-wave is that require a hub in order to communicate with devices. These hubs are needed to connect between a network and the devices. Typically, this is done with a hard-wired ethernet connection.

There is a newer smart device standard that is implemented in the Apple TV 4K, called “Thread”.

Thread 

Thread is a mesh-based protocol that allows for direct connections between the Thread Hub, in this case the Apple TV 4K, to the end devices. This eliminates the need for a second hub, like those you would see with the Hue lights. This will not only free up spots in a power strip, but it will also allow a wider range of devices. With Thread, no longer will you need to worry about which protocol a device uses. 

Beyond this, Thread also has an additional benefit, it uses a mesh network for connecting all of the devices. This allows the devices to connect to each other, meaning that if one device cannot be found, other devices can pick up the slack and take over and relay communications, if necessary.

Having Thread embedded right in the Apple TV should make connecting smart home devices even easier than before. Yet, this is not the last of the hardware changes within the new Apple TV 4K.

The Apple TV 4K also includes support for HDMI 2.1. In most cases, this will not have much of an impact. However, HDMI 2.1 is needed for a new feature called High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range.

High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range

High Frame Rate High Dynamic Range, or High Frame Rate HDR, is a technology that will allow playback of video at 60 frames per second, for video that includes High Dynamic Range. There are not many videos that shot in 60 frames per second with High Dynamic Range. If you have a capable iPhone you can watch any of your 60 frame per second videos with high dynamic range.

High Dynamic Range HDR should make any video that you watch even better. Beyond fast-moving video, this should also help with things like gaming. 

Gaming on the Apple TV

Lego Battles on Apple TV

On the topic of gaming, the Apple TV 4K also supports game controllers, like the Playstation 5 controller as well as the Xbox Series X|S controller. For those who want to play games with a controller, this is great addition.

Since the release of the 4th generation Apple TV in 2015, Apple has positioned the Apple TV hardware as a viable gaming box. When the Apple TV was first released, Apple had a requirement that all games support the Siri Remote, but could also support a gaming controller. 

It did not take long before Apple changed this requirement. The reason this was changed is because not all games can be played effectively with only the Siri Remote. 

However, controllers are not the only way to control items on the new Apple TV 4K. There is another way, and the one that is primarily used, the Siri Remote. With the 6th Generation Apple TV this has received a huge change, a complete redesign.

Siri Remote (2nd Generation)

Each of the remotes included with each Apple TV oldest on the left and newest on the right.

As mentioned above, each Apple TV included a remote. The original had the white Apple remote, while the second and third generation Apple TVs included the aluminum remote. The fourth generation had the original Siri Remote, and the fifth generation Apple TV included the Siri Remote with the white ring around the menu button.

When the Siri Remote first got into people’s hands, it quickly became divisive. Some people, like myself, do not have any problem with the Siri Remote. Yes, it did take some time to get accustom to, but eventually got used to using the remote and navigating the tvOS interface with the touch sensitive remote.

Even though some had no problem with the remote, there is a contingent of users who do not think the Siri Remote is a good remote and that the remote was a mistake. Many expected Apple to change up the Siri Remote with the Apple TV 4K, but they only did a minor upgrade. With the 6th Generation Apple TV 4K, there is a new Siri Remote.

The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a complete redesign of the Siri Remote. The remote harkens back to 2nd generation Apple TV remote in that it is aluminum. The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a different size than the first Siri Remote. 

However, the differences are only slight. The height of the Siri Remote is 5.44 inches, or 136mm, the width is 1.4 inches, or 35mm. The first generation Siri Remote was 4.88 inches, or 124mm, in height and 1.5 inches, or 38mm, wide. These are slight differences, but noticeable. 

Button Layout

The biggest change to the Siri remote, besides the build materials, is the button layout. There are seven buttons and a five way touch surface. There are still a volume up and volume down button, as well as the TV button and the play/pause button. 

There are a couple of new buttons though. The “Menu” button has been placed by a left arrow button. This button still behaves the same as the Menu button, but better represents its overall function. The Back button functions the exact same way as the Menu button did. The back button is concave, which should help you orient the remote when you pick it up.. This covers the existing buttons. However, this is only five buttons, which means that there are two new buttons. 

The two new buttons are ones that will make many users very happy. These are a dedicated mute/unmute button and a dedicated power button.

The mute/unmute button is a great addition because there are those times when you want to be able to mute the audio but not necessarily pause what is playing; which was the behavior with the first generation Siri remote, but no longer.

Power Button

There is a similar thing when it comes to powering off the Apple TV. With the 1st generation Siri Remote the way that you would power off the Apple TV would be to hold down the TV button to bring up the Sidebar, and then scroll down to the Sleep button to put the Apple TV into sleep mode.

With the 2nd Generation Siri Remote you now hold down the power button to turn off the Apple TV, as well as your TV, provided your TV supports HDMI Consumer Electronics Control, or HDMI-CEC. Now, with the dedicated power button you are able to turn off both your television as well as the Apple TV all with one button. This is a huge improvement and a much welcome one. 

Five-Way Directional Pad

The last change is that the top of the Siri remote it is that the top of the Siri remote has changed. With the previous Siri Remote, the entire top portion was a touch surface. This is no longer the case. In place of the touch surface is five-way directional pad that has a touch surface.

The directional pad has four directional buttons, up, left, down, and right. The directional pad is circular and with the entire directional pad supporting touch means that you can use the outside ring as a jog wheel. 

With the outside circle you can quickly scrub through video, or to move between items on the screen. Additionally, you can use the button clicks to quickly move jump forward and backward. 

Siri

In order for the Siri Remote to live up to its name, it needs to be able to access Siri. On the 2nd Generation Siri Remote there is a dedicated button, like on the previous version. However, the placement of the button has moved. Instead of being on the face of the remote, it is now on the side. You can bring up Siri just like you would on an iPhone. You can simply hold down the Siri button and it will appear on the Apple TV as you would expect. 

Now that we have covered all of the new buttons, let us see which devices the 2nd Generation Siri Remote is compatible with.

Compatibility

Typically, when you have a new accessory it is only compatible with the device that it comes with, or new devices. However, that is not the case with the 2nd Generation Siri Remote. In fact, it is actually compatible with both the 4th Generation Apple TV as well as the 5th Generation Apple TV. This means that you can create a consistent experience between all of your Apple TVs. 

Weight and Feel

Every generation of a device is likely to have different characteristics from the generation before. The Siri Remote is no exception. The 2nd generation Siri Remote is actually heavier than the 1st generation. In some respects this makes sense, given that the entire 2nd generation remote is made of aluminum. 

Even though the Siri remote is heavier, it still has a good feel to it. When you are holding the remote, it has a natural fit in your hand. The slightly rounded back feels a bit more natural than the straight back of the previous generation of Siri Remote.

Missing Features and Issues

It should be noted that the Siri Remote does not have a U1 chip. The U1 chip is used to  help you locate the exact position of a device. It seems a bit strange that the 2nd Generation Siri remote does not have at least some method of being able to locate the remote. While it is possible that some do not lose their remotes, there are probably more than a few who will lose one from time to time. There are various reasons why a Siri remote may go missing, but the remote being misplaced by someone, including kids, is quite possible. 

I would hope that there might eventually be a revision of the Siri Remote to include at least a speaker that can be used to have the remote make noise so it can be found. However, if there is going to be a revision, a U1 chip, as well as a speaker, similar to an  AirTag. This would allow a user to use an iPhone to locate the Siri Remote.

I did run into an issue while using the Siri Remote. This is not an issue with the remote itself, per se. The issue I ran into was the fact that I kept hitting the mute button instead of the play/pause button. This is because the mute button is in the same place as the previous play/pause button. I am sure it will take some time to retrain my brain, and muscle memory, but eventually I should stop hitting the mute button instead of play/pause, but even a week on, it is still a problem.

I have a 5th generation Apple TV 4K, and I have not had any issues going between the two Siri Remotes. I know there are some that have opted to replace all of their Apple TV remote with the 2nd generation Siri Remote. I have not ruled out doing this in the future, but I have not ordered any additional Siri Remotes yet.

Apple TV and Siri Remote Pricing

The 6th Generation Apple TV is available in two different storage sizes, 32GB and 64GB. The 32GB model is $179, and the 64GB model is $199. Both of these are available to order today, and ship within a week or so.

The Siri Remote is available on its own for $59. It is available to order today. This also has the same shipping time frame of a week or so for shipping, at least as of this writing.

Closing Thoughts

The 6th Generation Apple TV 4K is not a huge change, externally, there are no changes at all. Instead, all of the changes have been made on the internals. There is a new processor, the A12, which is the same processor that is in the iPhone XS. This is a two generation jump from the previous A10. The A12 processor provides the ability to display High Frame Rate video. High Frame Rate Video is 60 frame per second video that has High Dynamic Range.

The biggest change with the new Apple TV 4K is the 2nd Generation Siri Remote. The new Siri Remote is a complete redesign of the remote. The new remote is aluminum and the top portion is no longer a full touchpad. Instead, there is a circular touch pad, with directional buttons. The directional pad allows you to navigate up, down, left, or right. The ring around the touch pad will allow you to navigate as well as scrub video, or navigate through the interface. 

The 2nd Generation Siri Remote is a big heavier than the 1st generation model, but I suspect that many people will prefer the newer remote over the older one. Even if you do not purchase a new Apple TV 4K, you can use the Siri Remote with the 5th Generation Apple TV, as well as the 4th Generation Apple TV. it may take some adjustment given the difference in the button layouts as compared to the previous Siri Remote, but the second generation is a significant improvement.

Both the new Apple TV 4K and the Siri Remote are both available today. The Apple TV 4K is available in two sizes, 32GB and 64GB. These cost $179 and $199 respectively. The Siri Remote is available for $59. 

If you have a 4K TV and you want a standalone box from Apple, you cannot go wrong with the Apple TV 4K.

Additional info from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” Event

I thought I would add a few additional tidbits that have been made known after the Spring Loaded event. The topics will include some new information about iOS 14.5, AirTag, Apple TV, and Macs.

iOS 14.5

One tidbit that was made known is that iOS 14.5 is out today. iOS 14.5 supports AirTag, additional Siri voices, and the Xbox Series X|S and Playstation 5 controllers.

The second thing with iOS 14.5 is that there is a new feature, that may be very helpful for developers. If there are multiple beta versions available, both versions will be shown to the user, so they can decide which beta version they want to install. This will be a nice feature for developers.

The question that remains is whether or not you can downgrade a device to a previous version or not. I would suspect the answer is no.

Apple TV

While there is a lot of information about the new Apple TV 4K, one thing that was not mentioned before is that you can now get AppleCare+ on the Apple TV. You could purchase AppleCare previously, but this only covered two years of support.

Now with AppleCare+, you get up to 3 years of coverage for $29. This includes accidental damage coverage as well.

Macs

Similar to the change in AppleCare on the Apple TV, there are some AppleCare+ changes on the Mac now as well. You can now get AppleCare+ on a monthly basis. This means that you can get support beyond three years, which makes a lot of sense given that many people keep their Macs far beyond the previous two years of AppleCare support.

iMac 24-inch Tidbits

There is another tidbit specifically with the new 24-inch iMac. The power cord that goes into the iMac is a magnetic one. The magnets are quite strong because you do not want the power cord to accidentally come out of a running iMac, even if it has solid-state storage.

M1 Mac mini

Another update that Apple made is the additional option on the M1 Mac mini. now you can optionally choose a 10 gigabit Ethernet connection. This will cost an additional $100, but if you need the extra speed, it is an option. This was an option that was available on the previous generation Mac mini and it is good to see it make its way back to the current M1 Mac mini.

Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

One of the new features of 24-inch iMac is the option for a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. While these will be available for the 24-inch iMac, the keyboards will actually work with other M1 Macs. This is most particularly useful with the M1 Mac mini.

As of now the keyboards are not available for purchase separately from the 24-inch iMac, but it is quite likely that they will be available for purchase separately at some point in the future. As an owner of an M1 Mac mini, I know I would like to use Touch ID with that Mac, so I cannot wait until these are available.

AirTag

When Apple announced the AirTag it was not known how the they would be powered. It turns out that the battery in each AirTag is replaceable. These batteries are not proprietary in anyway, in fact, they are ones that you can buy almost anywhere. The specific battery is a CR2032 batteries, so you can get them just about anywhere.

The next question is how long with the battery last. Apple says the batteries should last “over a year”.

iPad Accessories

Apple added a whole new accessory for the iPad, the Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard allows you to have a full keyboard with a trackpad. The new 5th Generation 11-inch iPad Pro does not have any change in its dimensions. However, that is not the case with the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

The 5th Generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a bit thicker than the 3rd and 4th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. What this means is that the original Magic Keyboard will not work on the 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Therefore, if you are upgrading to a 5th generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro and you want to use the Magic Keyboard, you will need to purchase a new one, which is not cheap at $349.

Closing Thoughts

There are just a few of the other tidbits from Apple’s “Spring Loaded” event that could not be fit into the event itself. Well, they could have, if Apple wanted to have the event go longer than an hour.

Apple “Spring Loaded” Event Recap

Today Apple held their “Spring Loaded” event, and it was a packed event. There were a bunch of new products announced an update to Apple Card, a new podcast service, a new iPhone 12 Color, AirTags, a new iMac, a new Apple TV 4K, and a new iPad Pro. Let us look at each of these in turn.

Apple Card Family

Apple Card was introduced in August of 2019. Since its introduction each person has to apply for their own card and it cannot be shared. This arrangement means that there is discrimination in that the primary card holder is the one who builds credit, while a spouse or partner may not build up credit. This all changes with Apple Card Family. According to Apple:

Apple Card Family allows two people to co-own an Apple Card, and share and merge their credit lines while building credit together equally. Apple Card Family also enables parents to share Apple Card with their children, while offering optional spending limits and controls to help teach smart and safe financial habits. 

This is a great addition and will be available in May, but this will be U.S. only. It may expand to additional countries in the future, but there is no information on future expansion.

Apple Card Family with multiple users.

Apple Podcast

Audio content has always been a big draw for many users. People listen to audio in a variety of situations. This could be music, radio, audiobooks, or even podcasts. Apple has maintained a directory of podcasts since they first added podcast support to iTunes in June of 2005. Today Apple announced a big shift to podcasts, including Podcast subscriptions.

Starting in May, listeners in more than 170 countries and regions can sign up for premium subscriptions that include a variety of benefits curated by creators, such as ad-free listening, access to additional content, and early or exclusive access to new series. Listeners will be able to enjoy premium subscriptions from independent voices and premier studios…

All of this coincides with a redesigned Podcasts app which will allow users to discover shows similar to the ones they enjoy through the new Top Charts, Categories, and Advanced Search options. The new Podcasts app will be available with iOS 14.5 and the new Podcast Subscriptions will be available in May.

Apple Podcast Subscription service image.

Purple iPhone 12

While it has not been every year, Apple has consistently added a new color to its latest iPhone lineup in the spring. Typically it has been the PRODUCT(Red) phone, but there is already a PRODUCT(Red) the iPhone 12. Instead of red, Apple has introduced a new purple color. This is a similar shade of purple as the purple iPhone 11.

The purple iPhone 12 will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd with delivery beginning on April 30th. The prices remain the same as the regular iPhone 12. You can also get an iPhone 12 mini in purple, if that is your preference.

iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 in Purple

AirTag

Air Tag back and front view

No matter how much we may try, we all end up losing things from time to time. Sometimes we can quickly find the items. However, in some cases it is not that easy. There have been accessories that allow you to find your missing items, and when Apple introduced their “Find My” network, many speculated when Apple would release their own trackers. Well, today Apple announced their tracking device, called AirTag.

AirTags are little devices that utilize the U1 chip in your iPhone 12 to be able to help locate items. AirTag utilizes the “Find My” network to allow anybody to locate your missing device anonymously without giving anyone your location.

Apple has some accessories for the AirTag, including leather key rings, loops, leather loops, and even third-party accessories from Belkin, like the secure holder and secure holder with key ring. Apple has partnered with Hermes to provide a Bag Charm, Luggage Tag, and Key Ring.

You can customize your AirTags by engraving them with up to 4 characters including emoji. This is done when you order them. Speaking of ordering, AirTag will be available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd and they will begin arriving April 30th. You can purchase a single AirTag for $29, or a 4-pack for $99.

Apple TV 4K

Apple TV 4K (2021) and new Siri Remote

Apple is doubling down on their original TV content with shows like “The Morning Show”, “Wolfwalkers”, and “Ted Lasso”. One way to enjoy all of the content that you want is through the Apple TV, and in particular the Apple TV 4K. The last update to the Apple TV was in September of 2017. Today Apple announced a new Apple TV 4K.

The new Apple TV 4K includes an A12 Bionic chip, which provides even better graphics and processing. There are three other features with the Apple TV 4K. The first is a feature called high frame rate HDR.

High frame rate HDR

With A12 Bionic, Apple TV 4K now supports high frame rate HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Dolby Vision video, enabling fast-moving action at 60 frames per second (fps) to play more smoothly and appear more lifelike than ever before.

This should make any video that you watch even better. Beyond fast-moving video, this should also help with things like gaming. The Apple TV 4K supports the Playstation 5 controller as well as the Xbox Series X|S controller. However, controllers are not the only way to control items on the new Apple TV 4K. There is another way, and that is the next big feature, a redesigned Siri Remote.

When the Apple TV was originally introduced many did not like the Siri Remote. Some of the big issues with the Siri Remote were that the touch surface was a bit too sensitive and it was hard to orient the remote in low light situations. Apple has taken these, and additional issues into account with the new Siri Remote.

Siri Remote

Siri Remote (2021)

The new Siri Remote is an all aluminum design with a five-way directional pad, home button, back button, play/pause button, volume up and down buttons, and a mute button. Along with this, in the upper right corner, you will find a power button. The power button and mute button are designed to allow you to control your TV’s power and mute functionality without needing a separate remote. The other buttons are designed to provide you quick access to these functions.

The five-way directional pad will allow you to control the content even easier than before. Along with this, there is a circle around the five-way directional pad that will allow you to more easily jog through content to find the exact scene you are looking for.

The Siri Remote, as the name implies, still has Siri, but this is now a button on the right side of the remote. You can hold down the button and ask Siri your question and you will get a response just as in the past.

There is one last feature, and this one is a software feature called Color Balance.

Color Balancing

Each television set has its own characteristics. Some televisions can more accurately represent colors better than others. With the new Apple TV 4K you will be able to use your iPhone to provide the Apple TV with a better color balance so that it can compensate for any discrepancies in the color representation in your television. This is done by holding your iPhone up to your television when the Apple TV 4K is in Color Calibration mode. Once finished, the Apple TV 4K should be able to provide you with better colors while watching content.

The new Apple TV 4K is $179 for the 32GB model or $199 for the 64GB model. You can purchase a Siri Remote separately for $59 and it will work with previous versions of the Apple TV HD and Apple TV 4K. Lastly, there is an update Apple TV HD with the new Siri Remote. This is $149 for 32GB of storage.

All of these Apple TV-related products are available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. Next, let us turn to a slightly different device, the iMac.

iMac

Last June at WWDC 20, Apple announced that they would be transitioning all of the Macs to their own Apple Silicon chips and this transition would take approximately two years. The first batch of devices, the MacBook Air, the lower-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the Mac min were all released with the M1.

Today Apple unveiled another new Mac with the M1, the smaller iMac. I use the term “smaller”, because the first change is that it is no longer a 21.5-inch device, instead it is a 24-inch model. This is possible through the reduction in bezels, which now are just a thin border around the edges, similar to the iPad Pro. In the bezel is a whole new camera system. More on that in a moment.

Screen

The higher 21.5-inch iMac models had a 4K screen. With the 24-inch screen the new resolution of 4480-by-2520 resolution at 218 pixels per inch, creates a 4.5K resolution for the screen.

There is a now a 1080p camera system, that will allow better FaceTime and other video calls. This is all handled through the M1 image signal processor. This will provide better low-light performance. To go along with the video, is a better microphone system, which Apple calls “studio-quality mics”, similar to the 16-inch MacBook Pro. The microphones will allow better sound due to cancelling out room noise and the like.

The new 24-inch iMac is powered by the M1. This design allows for a much thinner profile. The thinner profile is not just a bit thinner, but massively thinner. The screen is flat, like the iPad Pros and comes in at 11.5mm thick. This is made possible through a redesign of the cooling system, which allows air to be pushed through the system as well as a redesigned logic board, which is much smaller thanks to the M1 powering the entire system.

The screen is not the only new feature, the biggest, and likely most requested feature, is one that users like to customize and that is the color.

Colors

24-inch iMac Colors (2021)

There is another big change to the 24-inch iMac. When the original G3 iMac was introduced, it came in a bunch of colors. Since the Intel transition beginning in 2005, the iMac has only been available in three colors, White, Silver, and Space Gray. With the latter being on the iMac Pro only. The 24-inch iMac now comes in a variety of colors, up to seven different color options, depending on the model. The full list of color options are:

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Pink
  • Silver
  • Yellow (Higher end only)
  • Orange (Higher end only)
  • Purple (Higher end only)

The base and front of each iMac is a light shade of the color, whereas the back if a vibrant color. There are two different model types, just like the MacBook Air. There is an 8-core CPU, 7-Core GPU model, and an 8-Core CPU and 8-Core GPU model.

Internals

All models include an M1, a 24-inch screen, 256GB of storage, 8GB of unified memory, and two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports. The higher-end model includes two USB-3 ports, and Gigabit Ethernet (configurable on the lower end model).

For options, on the 8-CPU/7GPU model you can configure a 512GB or 1TB storage option, and the aforementioned Gigabit Ethernet. On the 8-CPU/8-GPU model you can configure 512GB, 1TB or 2TB or storage.

The 24-inch iMac includes a 143 watt power brick, with a 2 meter/6 foot cable. This cable is a woven nylon cable, that is also color matched to the system. This is not the first time that Apple has used a woven nylon cable. In fact, Apple used one on the original HomePod as well as the HomePod mini. That is not the only feature of the power brick.

If you look at the back of the iMac you will notice that there is no Ethernet port, even on the higher-end model. That is because the ethernet port is in the power brick. The power port on the iMac can handle both power and data, and the Ethernet connection is handled over this cable. Apple indicated in the event that this will allow you to reduce the number of cables running to the computer, which was one of the goals of the original G3 iMac.

Next, let us look at the keyboard and mouse, there have been a couple changes there as well.

Magic Accessories

With the addition of colors, Apple is also including a color-matched accessories. These include the Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Magic Keyboard. The bottom portion of the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are color matched, and white on the top. As is the case with the current Magic Mouse and Magic Keyboard, you need to power it with an included USB-C to lightning cable. Just like the power cable, this is color matched with the iMac.

Magic Trackpad colors

The Magic Keyboard is not to be left out of being of being color matched, because it is also color-matched with the iMac. However, there is a big change with the Magic Keyboard, beyond the color. There are new icons on the keys; well there are but that is not the big change. The big change is that the Magic Keyboard now has a Touch ID button, that replaces the eject button.

This is the same Touch ID that you see with the MacBook Air and MacBook Pros. For the first time you can use Touch ID on your iMac just like you can on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. This is a big advancement.

The lower-end iMac does not get the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID, however you can configure the iMac with that keyboard. The higher-end 24-inch iMac has the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID included in the box. There is also a Magic Keyboard with Number Pad and Touch ID that is can be configured on either 24-inch iMac model, should you need that model.

The 24-inch iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299 for the 8-Core CPU/7-Core CPU model, and $1499 for the 8-Core CPU/8-Core GPU model. Next, let us look at one last new product, the iPad Pro.

iPad Pro

2021 iPad Pros

Last year Apple upgraded the iPad Pro with a couple of new features, an A12Z processor and a new camera system. The new camera system allowed developers to use LiDAR used within Augmented reality applications. This was a minor update over the 2018 iPad Pro. Today Apple released a new set of iPad Pros, however these are not small updates.

Processor

There are still two iPad Pro models, the 11-inch and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, the processor within the two devices is radically different. In fact, it is not longer an A-series processor. It is now an M1 processor, the same one that is iMac, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini. According to Apple this means:

The 8-core CPU design features the world’s fastest CPU cores in low-power silicon – delivering up to 50 percent faster CPU performance than A12Z Bionic. The 8-core GPU is in a class of its own, delivering up to 40 percent faster GPU performance. 

M1 Processor Image

With the iPad Pro running the M1, that means that it can support Thunderbolt/USB 4. The iPad Pro does just that. The USB port has been replaced with a Thunderbolt/USB 4 port. This means that you can use accessories like Thunderbolt storage as well as being able to power the Apple Pro Display XDR at its native resolution with the iPad Pro.

Since the original iPad in 2010, the iPad has had an option of cellular connectivity. The latest iPad Pros are no exception. The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models now have 5G connectivity as an option.

Camera

Along with the M1, there is also an improved Face ID camera. There is now a 12 Megapixel camera with a 122 degree field of view. This means that video calls will be even better than before. However, that is not the only feature with the camera. The camera will now automatically try to keep you in the center of the frame, so if you move to the side, the camera will move as well; up to its 122 degree limit. Similarly, if another person enters into the view, the camera will try to zoom out to include everyone in the shot. This is a nice feature which will make things a bit nicer overall.

The M1, Thunderbolt/USB 4 port, as well as the improved camera is included on both the 11-inch iPad Pro and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. However, there is one feature that is specific to the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a Liquid Retina XDR display.

Display

The Liquid Retina XDR display uses a new technology called Mini Light Emitting Diode, or Mini LED. Mini LED, as the name implies, these are very small LEDs. For comparison, in the previous iPad Pro models there were 72 LEDs. In the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, there are over 10,000. These are broken down into dimmable regions so the color can be reproduced even more accurately than before. This also allows certain areas to be individually dimmed, again allowing even better color options.

The Liquid Retina XDR display has a standard brightness of 600 nits. However, at max brightness it is 1000 nits, and its peak is 1600 nits of brightness. It is not likely that the max brightness will occur very often.

Accessories

The 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models support the 2nd Generation Apple Pencil. Along with this, there is a new Magic Keyboard. The Magic Keyboard is a slight change from the previous generation. There is a new color as well, White.

The 11-inch iPad Pro supports the existing Black Magic Keyboard and Smart Keyboard Folio. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Magic Keyboard, which will be $349.

Both the Magic Keyboard for the 5th Generation iPad Pro, as well as the White version of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch Magic Keyboard will be available for pre-order on April 30th.

Price

Both iPad Pro models came in a variety of storage sizes, 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB options. The 2TB option is new this year. The 128GB, 256GB, and 512GB, models all have 8GB of memory, while the 1TB and 2TB models have 16GB of memory. This is the first time that Apple has indicated the amount of memory in an iPad.

The 11-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $799 / $999
  • 256GB – $899 / $1099
  • 512GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 1TB – $1499 / $1699
  • 2TB – $1899 / $2099

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has the following cost breakdown of Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular

  • 128GB – $1099 / $1299
  • 256GB – $1199 / $1399
  • 512GB – $1399 / $1599
  • 1TB – $1799 / $1999
  • 2TB – $2199 / $2399

The 12.9-inch model is more expensive this year, as is cellular. Cellular costs an addition $200, whereas last year it was $149. You can pre-order an 11-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro on April 30th, with availability being the second half of May.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, what Apple announced definitely lived up to the name of the event being “Spring Loaded”.

The event was full of new products including Apple Card family, which allows two co-owners of a card to build credit equally as well as providing limits for children. This will be available in May. Apple also introduced a new Podcast subscription service, that will allow listeners to support their favorite podcasters. This feature will be available in May. Apple also unveiled a new iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 color, purple. This will be available for pre-order on Friday with delivery beginning on April 30th.

Along with the iPhone, Podcast, and Apple Card, Apple unveiled a new product, AirTag. The AirTag is a way of being able to locate missing items. AirTag will cost $29 each or $99 for a 4-pack. These will be available for pre-order this Friday for delivery beginning April 30th.

The new AirTag is not the only new product, there is a new Apple TV 4K replete with a new Siri Remote. The new Apple TV 4K has an A12 Bionic processor. The A12 Bionic also allows for the new Color Calibration feature and high frame rate HDR to allow the best television watching experience. The new Siri Remote is aluminum with a new button layout and the dedicated Siri button is now on the side. There are new power and mute buttons that will operate your existing television. The Apple TV, and Siri Remote, will be available for pre-order on April 30th, with availability in the second half of May.

Possibly the biggest product release is the new 24-inch iMac. The iMac has an improved Face Time camera and thinner bezels. The new 24-inch iMac is significantly thinner, 11.5mm thin. The speakers have been improved as well. The 24-inch iMac can come in 7 different colors and there are three configurations. The 24-inch iMac starts at $1299, can be configured up to 2TB of storage and 16GB of RAM. The iMac will be available or pre-order on April 30th, with availability beginning in the second half of May.

The last new item that Apple released was a new set of iPad Pro. Both models include an M1, providing even more performance over the previous generation. The iPad Pro models can come in 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB. There is a Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models. The Wi-Fi + Cellular models cost $200 more than the Wi-Fi models, but the cellular is now 5G. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has a new Liquid Retina XDR Display that uses Mini LED technology. The iPad Pro models will be available for pre-order on April 30th, and will be available in the second half of May.

All of the new products today are great upgrade, or addition, to Apple’s product line up. While there is nothing available to purchase today, there are a couple of items available for pre-order this Friday, April 23rd, while the remainder are available for pre-order on April 30th.

Source: Podcasts, Apple TV 4K, iMac, iPad Pro

Apple One Subscription Bundle Now Available

Back at their “Time Flies” event in September, Apple announced a new all-in-one subscription service, dubbed “Apple One”. It was mentioned on yesterday’s financial call that Apple One was available starting today, October 30th, 2020. To briefly recap the Apple One service has three different tiers, these tiers are:

  • Individual
  • Family
  • Premier

All of the tiers have some common services. All of the tiers include Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud Storage. The amount of storage included depends on the tier. The Individual tier includes 50GB of iCloud storage, the Family tier includes 200GB of storage, and the Premier tier includes 2TB of iCloud storage.

The Premier tier also includes two other services, Apple News+ and the previously announced Apple Fitness+ service, which is slated to arrive later this quarter. The Premier tier is not available in all countries.

Apple One Bundle Tiers.

Starting your Apple One Trial

The ability to combine all of your subscriptions, with the exclusion of existing additional iCloud storage, is pretty straight forward and quite beneficial. In addition to saving a bit of money over subscribing to all of the services separately, they are all combined in to a single bill. The Apple One bundle includes a one month free trail. To start your Apple One free trial perform these steps:

  1. Open the App Store app on your iOS device.
  2. Tap on your account icon in the upper right corner to bring up your account sheet.
  3. Tap on “Subscriptions” to bring up your existing subscriptions.
List of subscriptions prior to starting the free trial of Apple One. This includes the banner to try Apple One.
  1. A banner should show that says “Get Apple One”. Tap on “Try It Now” to open up the Apple One subscription options page.
  2. On the “Apple One Subscription” page, you will be presented with each tier and its available options. A tier will be recommended to you, based upon your current subscriptions and needs. Tap the tier you wish to subscribe to.
Apple One bundle tier options.
  1. Tap on the “Start Free Trial” button. This will bring up an Apple Pay sheet.
  2. Confirm with Apple Pay that you want to start your trial with Apple One.
Apple Pay confirmation screen with free trial and cost.
  1. Once this is processed a confirmation page you will see a “Welcome to Apple One” screen appear. This will have a recap of what you selected.
The "Welcome to Apple One" screen with confirmation of tier.

Once you dismiss the “Welcome to Apple One” screen, you are all set. Here is what my subscriptions look like after starting the free trial of Apple One

List of subscriptions after starting the free trial of Apple One. Apple Music is no longer shown.

It should be noted that any iCloud storage that you subscribe to is in addition to iCloud storage that you get with your Apple One plan. For instance, if you subscribe to the Family tier, which includes 200GB, and you also subscribe to the 200GB iCloud storage plan, you will have a total of 400GB for the entire family. If you subscribe to a plan that has enough storage bundled in you may want to change your existing iCloud storage or remove it completely, let us look at that next.

Downgrading iCloud Storage

If you currently subscribe to get additional iCloud storage, you are able to downgrade, or even stop subscribing to extra iCloud storage. To change your iCloud storage perform the following steps. These steps should work on both iOS and macOS.

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Tap on your name at the top to open your iCloud settings.
  3. Tap on “iCloud” to bring up your current iCloud information.
  4. Tap on the “Manage Storage” button.
  5. Tap on the “Change Storage Plan” or “Buy more Storage” button.
  6. Your current storage subscription should be shown. Here you can select the new storage tier that you would like to use, or you can click on “Downgrade Options”.
  7. Enter in your iCloud password when prompted.
  8. Select the iCloud storage option that you would like to downgrade to.
  9. Tap on “Done” to confirm you selection.
iCloud Storage options that you can downgrade to. The options of "None" and "50GB" are shown in the image.

Once you have tapped on “Done” your storage option will be changed for your next renewal date.

Apple One and Existing Subscriptions

If you have an Apple TV+ subscription, that subscription will be rolled into Apple One, so it will be removed from your list of active subscriptions. The same goes for Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and Apple Music.

I have a strange scenario that you might need to be aware of. I have subscribed to Apple Music since its release and when I renewed it, I went with the yearly subscription option. The reason for this is that it was $99 for an entire year versus $120. I was unsure of what would happen. So, I contacted Apple using their Business Chat service via the Messages app (highly recommended), and they informed me that any existing subscriptions would receive a pro-rated refund, but only once the Apple One trial is over.

This means that you will not be double-charged for services, which is a definite positive and the way it should be.

Closing Thoughts

The Apple One bundle is a pretty good deal if you were already subscribed to a number of Apple services. The ability to add additional iCloud storage is a definite boon and will allow some people to get even more storage than before.

For me, it makes sense to get the family plan. I already subscribed to Apple Music and iCloud storage. I was going to pay for Apple TV once the free trial was over. The total would have been almost $18 on its own. I am paying a bit more, but now it is all billed at once instead of various times throughout the month. I am not sure if I will keep paying for the extra iCloud storage. I will do so for now, but I may ultimately end up downgrading to the 50GB plan and have a total of 250GB instead of just 200GB. Even before the Apple One bundle I had plenty of space remaining, about 40GB.

I cannot say that I am surprised that Apple One is being made available today. Next Friday is when pre-orders for the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro Max, and HomePod mini starts. November 13th is when the items will begin arriving, and if the rumors are true there will be an event on November 17th. Then we get into Thanksgiving in America, so this is probably the best time to roll out Apple One.

Apple App Store and iTunes Store Availability Changes

One of the biggest problems in today’s interconnected world is that there are those who are highly motivated by getting financial information from individuals. Many of these individuals use different means of getting this information. One way to be able to combat this is by having the companies who are storing financial data protect it.

One of the ways that these companies can do this is by removing older connection protocols and older software. Apple is making some changes with their older software versions. Apple has begun emailing individuals who are affected. From their support article:

On June 30, 2018, Apple will implement changes to continue to ensure your financial data is protected when you make purchases on the iTunes Store or App Store. As a result of the changes, you will no longer be able to change your Apple ID payment information from devices using the following versions of Apple software:

  • iOS 4.3.5 or earlier
  • macOS 10.8.5 or earlier
  • Apple TV Software 4.4.4 or earlier

If you’re using one of these versions on your device and need to change your payment method, update your device to the latest version of the software.

This change does not meant that you cannot access your content, you still can. But if you need to update your payment information you cannot do it on your older devices. I did not get an email, but I guess that is because I have not used any of the older operating systems recently. Maybe it is just me, but I am all for having companies better protect our financial information even if that means that you cannot use some older devices to change information.

Source: Apple Support.