The 2021 iPad Mini as Reviewed by Federico Viticci

The iPad lineup is wild. There are two “Pro” iPads, there is the Air from last year which is now technically slower than this new 2021 iPad Mini and all of those have the same basic design features, excellent performance, and USB-C support. The lone holdout on the Lightning port and Home button front is the $330 2021 iPad Cheap.

Federico Viticci is in my opinion the iPad expert, and his review is worth reading if you’re at all curious about this update to the iPad Mini:

The new iPad mini fulfills my longstanding dream of an iPad Pro/Air-like device in a diminutive form factor, providing a highly portable experience unlike anything else in Apple’s lineup.

The iPad mini was already in a class of its own; with this redesign, Apple has made the best small iPad I’ve ever tried – one that is a joy to use on a daily basis. Whether you’re looking for a companion device to your iPad Pro or a portable iPad to complement your Mac experience, this little iPad is worth the price of admission.

This is also probably the only review that discusses running emulators on the device as depicted in the screenshot above.

They’re all good tablets but after using a big 12.9” iPad Pro for months of “distance learning” my hands ache from the weight and as a writer, the only iPad I’ve ever loved writing on without some kind of hardware keyboard was the Mini. So, this new iPad Mini looks mighty tempting, if limited. The lower quality screen and lack of Apple’s “ProMotion” variable refresh rate support are the big compromises to me, as is the diminutive screen size even if it is a little taller in this year’s update.

Everything Announced at Apple’s September iPhone Infomercial 2021

New Hardware: iPad Cheap, iPad Mini, Apple Watch Series 7, iPhone 13

Apple announces new hardware every year alongside their new iPhone. Today’s infomercial or “event” is no different. This is the second pandemic iPhone announcement. This article is going to be long, so here is a table of contents based on the order of appearance:

Apple TV+

Tim Cook introduced a montage of shows for their subscription TV and movie service that are coming this Fall. They’re probably fine shows because they’re produced by people who Apple hired that knew how to make TV shows and movies. There is nothing about the shows and movies on Apple TV+ that couldn’t have existed without Apple. This is the epitome of weird over expansion for a technology company to have its own video service just to, presumably, appease investors and diversify their product offerings to include something they can charge subscription money for. These shows and movies could just as easily be from Paramount or Amazon or any other company and the only thing that would be different is the funding and maybe the product placement.

Ipad cheap

iPad Cheap 2021

The iPad lineup has been confusing for years. There’s an iPad with no surname that I call the iPad Cheap, it doesn’t share the same design and features as the iPad Pro line but it has been relatively cheap at $330 and fast enough. Cook had Melody Kuna, Apple’s Senior Manager of iPad Product Design introduce an updated version of this iPad Cheap. Kuna said the 2021 iPad Cheap gets and A13 Bionic and that this chip is 20% faster than last year’s iPad Cheap. Comparisons were made to the “best-selling” Android Tablet and “best-selling” Chromebook both being slower. The comparisons did not specify which devices or include any idea of what the benchmark was. Both cameras are supposed to be improved. The front-facing selfie camera is now a 12 megapixel sensor with a wider 122 degree field of view that enables Apple’s Center Stage video call feature that focuses on the participants in the call according to Kuna. The display is also said to get the True Tone features, but it is also still stuck with the first-generation Apple Pencil stylus, continuing a distinction that is sure to frustrate anyone who ends up with the wrong Apple Pencil due to an upgrade or gift or for whatever reason. So stupid. The storage tiers at least now start at a more reasonable 64GB. Colors are only Space Gray and Silver. Orders start today, it ships next week.

Ipad mini

iPad Mini 2021

I’m very happy to see the iPad Mini continue to get updates, it is my favorite iPad. Katie McDonald is the Product Manager for Apple’s iPad line and she introduced the new model with a larger 8.3” “Liquid Retina” screen that also gets True Tone among other upgrades and a new design that almost matches the iPad Pro lineup with flat sides but the “all-screen design” to me appears to still have pretty thick borders even if it lacks a home button. There is no ProMotion variable refresh rate support, which is disappointing. Touch ID has moved from the home button to the sleep/wake button. Colors are Purple, Pink, “Starlight” and Space Gray. Apple claims 40% faster CPU performance over the previous generation and 80% faster GPU performance, Apple did not say why the new Mini was faster during the event, because the A-series system wasn’t announced until the iPhone portion of the event, but the secret was the A15. The new Mini also gets USB-C, 5G cellular connectivity, better cameras with the Center Stage feature, stereo speakers in landscape mode, the 2nd-generation Apple Pencil stylus. It’s $500 for the 64GB Wi-Fi model. Orders start today, and it ships next week.

Apple watch 7

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams emphasized new bicycling features for WatchOS 8 with detection for when riders pause briefly, fall detection, and support for e-bikes before introducing a new Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 7 is supposed to get a larger display with 20% more screen, 40% thinner borders, and be 70% brighter “indoors, when your wrist is down.” Which is an odd thing to boast about but Willaims said this would make it easier to check the time. Apple’s Product Manager for the Apple Watch lineup, Lauren Braun, went into more detail and said that the OS would get larger, redesigned, buttons to match the larger screen and can fit up to 50% more text on-screen. All of the rumors about the new watch being flat-sided were wrong, it is still rounded. Braun also introduced a very familiar on-screen keyboard that rips off the design of FlickType, an app that was on Apple’s App Store until Apple decided to start rejecting updates to it despie previously praising FlickType as an accessibility tool. The developer of FlickType, Kosta Eleftheriou, is suing Apple for ripping off the design. I hope that Eleftheriou wins.

The new Series 7 watch also gets new watch faces, Contour, and an update to the Modular watch face. Braun says that durability is improved to be more crack-resistant and dust resistant, and that the new Apple Watch charges faster. It’ll be available in new colors “midnight, starlight, green, blue, and red” as well as the upgraded models for rich people. Band compatability hasn’t changed. Remarkably, Apple is still selling the Series 3 watch for $200 that is supposed to be difficult to update to new versions of the OS and it is Apple’s last 32-bit product. Developers hate it! The $280 Apple Watch SE also hangs on and the Series 7 replaces the previous high-end models at $400. Availability for the Series 7 is “Later this fall.” No 5G on the new Apple Watch and it appears to have the same internal system on a chip as the Series 6.

Apple Fitness+

Jay Blahnik is Apple’s Senior Director of Fitness Technologies and Blahnik talked about how the workouts on the service would be availabile in more countries, and would use subtitles. That seems like a half-assed solution. Sam Sanchez is one of the on-screen trainers and she talked about some of the workout options, including new Pilates workouts. Another trainer, Jessica Skye said Fitness+ would also get guided meditations with video and audio versions. Bakari Williams said that there would be new workouts specifically designed for winter sports. Blahnik returned to say that group workouts would work using Apple’s Messages or FaceTime calls for up to 32 people. Most of the new features are out “later this month” with the group workouts and new countries coming “later this Fall.”

Iphone 13

iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 Mini

Kaiann Drance, Apple’s Vice President of iPhone Product Marketing, introduced the iPhone 13 regular 6.1” and Mini 5.4” variations in front of a bizarre empty outdoor event space. Apple made a big deal of a drone or helicopter camera view that zoomed in to show Drance, but it is an incredibly strange situation. There was also no outdoor audio in the audio feed, so it sounded like the audio was all recorded perfectly indoors. The exterior of the new iPhones hasn’t changed much except for the placement of the cameras being placed diagonally on the back and a supposedly “20%” smaller notch at the top for the front-facing camera system. Drance showed off five new colors for the new iPhone. Pink, Blue, Midnight, Starlight, and Red. . Drance said there is a new OLED that is up to 28% brighter, up to 800 nits, and that the display is more power-efficient. There’s a bigger battery inside, and the devices have the A15 Bionic. Drance boasted that “the competition” is still catching up to where Apple was two years ago in performance which is also a little odd when the iPad Cheap ships with a similar or the same A13 as was available two years ago.

Hope Giles is Apple’s VP of Engineering Program Management for Hardware Technologies. She boasted about how the A15 Bionic system is more powerful and more efficient with 6 cores, two of which are high-performance and four are dedicated to efficiency. Giles said this would speed-up the text-to-speech processing on-device and maps directions. Boring. Giles compared it to the competition by saying this A15 “…up to 50% faster…” Giles also said that games would have access to 4-core GPU that is up to “30% faster graphics than the leading competition.” The neural engine is now supposed to have 16 cores.

All of the comparisons about the A15 being faster than the competition instead of the iPhone 12’s A14 makes me think that it might not be a huge upgrade in terms of processing power.

The iPhone 13 lineup has new cameras. The regular “wide” camera has bigger pixels and an f 1.6 aperture that Apple says gathers up to 47% more light. Optical image stabilization also comes to the cheaper iPhone 13 and the Mini version as well. Last year it was exclusive to the Pro Max model. This is the same feature you may have seen headlines about, where it may be sensitive to being attached to a motorcycle or bicycle. The ultra-wide camera was updated with an f 2.4 aperture. As always, Apple shows off these cameras with professional photography that seems sort-of inappropriate. Camera companies and other phone makers do the same thing. I think it should be mixed with actual handheld shots that show how the newer iPhone deals with challenging situations for these tiny camera sensors better. Apple says the new ultra-wide camera will capture less noise than previous generations.

Video capture gets a “Cinematic mode.” One of Apple’s Human Interface Designers, Johnnie Manzari, talked about the new feature. Continuing the professionals using consumer tools to show unrealistic results fraud, Apple showed off the new feature with a short film called “Whodunit” that demonstrated Cinematic Mode by changing the focus swiftly between multiple subjects and objects in a scene. Manzari said that the focus changes would also automatically change to track the subject of a shot, and if it is tracking a person, it will follow that person’s gaze to change focus away from them and back. Users can also tap to change the current focus after the video is captured.

The 5G radios are supposed to be improved, according to Drance, to work with 200 carriers in 60 countries and regions by the end of the year. Supposedly the updated 5G radios and antennas also improve battery life. A “Smart Data mode is still supposed to move back to LTE when 5G isn’t available.

There’s no USB-C on the new iPhone 13. The iPhone 13 Mini is supposed to get 1.5 hours more battery life than the iPhone 12 Mini. Drance said that The iPhone 13 has 2.5 more hours than the 12.

Drance also boasted about the privacy of the iPhone 13, she boasted about the Siri audio requests being processed on the device, and not leaving the iPhone “by default.”  among other features.

Pricing is the same as last year, $700 for the mini and $800 for the regular, Drance boasted about trade-in offers from various carriers bringing that price down which is frankly gross. The default capacity is now 128GB and then there are 256GB and 512GB tiers. At least you get a reasonable amount of storage and there aren’t 16GB iPhones at these prices.

Ironically, the iPhone 13 ad during this infomercial features a caseless iPhone 13 on a motorbike despite recent Apple support articles that claim that the iPhone should be using an isolated mount or it may break the cameras.

Iphone 13 pro

iPhone 13 Pro & Pro Max

Greg “Joz” Joswiak, Apple’s senior-Vice President of Worldwide Marketing introduced the Pro models of the iPhone 13. The Pro models once again have “surgical-grade stainless steel bands” around the outside edge. Colors are Graphite, Gold, Silver, and a “Sierra Blue.” The display is once again a new iteration on the “Super Retina XDR” technology that is supposed to be brighter at up-to 1000 nits and it finally gets Apple’s variable refresh rate (VRR) technology, ProMotion. The VRR can supposedly go down to 10hz for battery efficiency and up to 120hz to match the content and the user input.

Louis Dudley, Apple’s iPhone Product Manager, introduced the new Pro camera systems. The telephoto zoom camera has a 77mm focal length and is a 3x optical zoom. The Ultra-wide camera has an f1.8 aperture, apple says this gets up to a 92% improvement in low-light. The regular “wide” camera also gets an f1.5 aperture with larger pixels for Apple’s claimed 2.2x improvement in low light over the 12 Pro. You can tell Apple doesn’t want you to think too much about this because they switch between percentage improvements and multiplication improvements, but it should still be a good improvement.

Rebecca Pujols is an Image Quality Engineer and she talked about image processing improvements on the Pro lineup. Pujols talked about a new feature called Photographic styles that will be available on all of the iPhone 13 models. Pulojs emphasized that these are inserted into the image capture pipeline and then are improved over what you could achieve with a filter. The camera app will have four default styles including “rich contrast” and “vibrant.” These styles are customizable to adjust how much of different aspects of the style are applied. Pujols emphasized that once you set these styles, you won’t need to apply them to each photo.

Back in the pantheon of unrealistic goals for people buying smart phones. Apple featured a short video made by professional filmmakers to show how they could theoretically shoot a real movie using an iPhone. The one thing that was better about this was that the included behind-the-scenes footage showed the iPhones attached to various mounts like steadicams, something to really demonstrate that end-users should not expect to have their footage look like this.

Joswiak said that 4k/30 ProRes video capture would come to the iPhone 13 models later this year.

There is also one more GPU core on the A15 for the iPhone 13 Pro models versus the regular iPhone 13.

The baseline iPhone 13 Pro is $1000, the larger Pro Max model is $1100. Those models all start with 128GB of storage and go up to 1TB. Orders go up on Friday, the 17th, they ship on September 24th which is the Friday after this one.

Overall

The new iPhones are expensive, and so little separates the “Pro” line from the other iPhone 13 models. That lack of a difference outside of cameras and variable refresh rate display technology between the models is good, because the technology does become more reachable. However, The iPhone lineup is ridiculous. Apple is now selling 8 different models, the SE and 11, and then both sizes of the 12, 13, and 13 Pro which hit every price point from $400, $500, $600, $700, and $1000. It must be incredibly confusing to try to buy an iPhone these days. All of those iPhones are good enough performance-wise with the major changes being camera functionality and screen technologies.

As I said earlier, the Apple Watch Series 3 hanging on is bad for users and developers. The Apple Watch Series 3 is this year’s “16GB Model” of iPhone or iPad. The SE should be $200.

The 5GB free tier of iCloud storage is still a joke, and I harp on this every time Apple mentions anything anymore but it is truly shameful that you could spend $1500 on an iPhone and Apple won’t do anything to help you back the data up so you won’t lose your photos if that iPhone is lost or broken. Some people will never spend the monthly fee to back up their phone storage and it is something that one of the richest companies in the world could easily do to help their users.

Apple’s treatment of their workers has been excruciatingly terrible for years with a bizarre sense of toxic positivity, and they are a rent-seeking business that steals 30% from possibly the majority of external software developers.

There are heaps of criticisms to make of this company, and they are all deserved and the result of capitalism that is speeding the destruction of our planet no matter how much Apple claims to have been progressive or environmentally-friendly. Every appeasement Apple makes to environmentalism or demonstration of philanthropy is a symptom of capital that should have been regulated or taxed along with the rest of the rich businesses that are destroying our planet and hurting the people who live on it. I will give Apple credit for one thing, it is more possible to keep an iPhone for longer, in terms of software updates. No other phone maker has made phones that could theoretically get updates for so long. However, Apple’s work against the right-to-repair has demonstrated that Apple is absolutely on the wrong side of history overall.

Everything Announced at Apple’s 4/20 2021 Infomercial

New iPad Pros, purple iPhone 12, iMac, AirTags, Apple TV 4K

Apple Card Family

Tim Cook opened up the infomercial by announcing changes to their credit card, to let spouses and partners share and merge credit lines so that everyone gets the benefit of improved credit. That is an improvement to the shitty credit situation that hounds everyone, but it’d be better to just destroy the credit system entirely which I’m sure the bank (Goldman Sachs) behind the Apple Card would not appreciate. Tim Cook equated this to financial equity which is a really ridiculous thing to hear from a company that does everything it can to bust internal attempts at unionization. There will also be a way to share access to the credit card to anyone in a family over 13 with optional limits. The new feature is called Apple Card Family. Previously it wasn’t possible to share access to their credit card at all.

Podcasts

The Podcasts app is getting a big update, and as many people have suspected, subscriptions because Apple has to have their cut of everything. According to the terms for podcasters Apple gets 30% of your subscription revenue the first year and then 15% in the second. There’s also a $20 fee for podcasters who want to sign up for the program. Destroying the open podcasting ecosystem through subscriptions is something lots of other businesses have been attempting, so why not Apple? 

Purple iPhone 12

You can now get the iPhone 12 in purple. The ad they showed for the purple iPhone 12 includes the tag line “Mmmmm, purple” and the candyman song from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. You can pre-order it on Friday and it comes out on the 30th if you’re into purple and don’t want to wait for the iPhone 13 this fall. I don’t really care for the shade they picked here.

AirTags

Carolyn Wolfman-Estrada has a cool name, and is the engineering program manager for iPhone Systems. Apple recently announced third-party partners for the Find My app that they claim lets your devices help find other people’s things even when they are offline without violating anyone’s privacy or revealing those locations to Apple. Apple’s AirTag lost item locating devices have been rumored for what seems like years now, and Wolfman-Estrada said they are designed to track items and not people so it seems like Apple might have thought through the bad use cases for these things. You’re supposed to be able to locate unwanted airtags if they’re on your stuff, but I can’t imagine that is possible if you’re not using an iPhone. The AirTags are water and dust resistant, personalizable round discs with a user-replaceable battery. Apple devices that support ultra-wide band can find them more precisely. They’re $30 for an AirTag or four for $100. Like the purple iPhone 12, AirTag pre-orders are up on Friday and they should be generally available on April 30th.

Apple TV 4K (2021)

The last Apple TV box was also the Apple TV 4K, so now this must be the Apple TV 4K (2021). Cindy Lin introduced the updated box. It has a newer A12 processor from 2018 instead of the A10X Fusion that was in the 2017 Apple TV 4K. They have not changed up the branding at all to stop confusion with the Apple TV+ subscription video service. The A12 is pretty old at this point, so it probably won’t be fantastic at newer games especially at high resolutions. The newer Apple TV 4K does get high frame rate support, which is nice. There is also a color balance feature so your iPhone can help calibrate the box’s output to improve accuracy, but it isn’t a guided system for changing the TV’s settings for better output in general, so those benefits will only apply to the Apple TV 4K box.

Maybe the best news for the Apple TV 4K (2021) is that there is a new remote. It looks like this:

Siri remote 4k 2k21

There’s a Siri button on the right side where the presenter’s thumb is. The pad has jog wheel functionality on the outside ring. The remote is supposed to be able to control your TV’s power, volume, and mute functionality.

The Apple TV 4K (2021) is $180 for the 32GB model and $200 for the 64GB version. Competing devices are under $50. None of this makes any sense when some of those competing devices also have Apple TV+ apps and support AirPlay. Pre-orders go up on the 30th of April, general availability is “the second half of May.” The remote will also be available separately for $60. The old Apple TV 4K is still available but with the new remote for $150.

iMac 2021 gets the M1 and a new design

IMac

Colleen Novielli introduced the new iMac in a bunch of colors. It’s the first redesign in years. Novielli boasted that switching to the M1 let them reduce the size of the iMac by “…over 50 percent.” Unfortunately the only size of the monitor is 24 inches. Novielli says the new components let them fit that size of display in a design that is “..only slightly larger than the 21 and a half inch iMac.” The 24 inch display has a 4480×2520 resolution that Apple calls 4.5K Retina. The display also has the color balancing based on lighting conditions that Apple calls True Tone. The FaceTime HD camera on the top of the new iMac is 1080p. As was last year’s 27” iMac but Apple said this one “…doubles the resolution.” so I guess they’re talking about the 21” model. There’s supposed to be better processing of the camera through the M1. The microphone is supposed to be an improved three microphone array. Apple says these are the best microphone and camera “…ever in a Mac.” The speakers are supposed to be improved for the “Best sound system ever in a Mac.” Novielli said the M1 processor makes the 24” iMac up to 80% faster than previous 21.5” iMac models.

There are “Up to 4 USB-C ports” on the back, two of which support Thunderbolt 3. The power adaptor attaches to the back of the iMac magnetically, but not through USB-C. The iMac’s ethernet port is oddly on the back of the power adapter. There are color-matched keyboard options, as well as another keyboard that includes the biometric security feature, Touch ID. This is the first time Apple has ever had wireless transmission of biometric data. The Magic Keyboard with Touch ID is also available in an extended version that includes a number pad and properly spaced out arrow keys (the ones on the other two models of keyboard are bunched together with an odd layout).

Big keyboard

The Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad are also color-matched but get no other updates.

The base iMac 24” is $1300 and has 8 GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD which is criminally small and it only has 4 color options and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Another version is $1500 and includes one more core for the GPU (7, versus 8), two additional USB 3 ports, the squished layout 60% keyboard with Touch ID, seven color options instead of four, and ethernet on the power brick. Pre-orders go up on the 30th. The 24” iMacs also won’t be more generally available until the second half of May. The old intel iMac is still available and still has a spinning disk fusion drive option, and a non-Retina display.

iPad Pro 2021 also gets an M1

The iPad Pro is getting the M1 which makes it incredibly confusing what the M in M1 stands for. Apple also said that these are “console quality graphics”:

Console quality graphics

The quality looks somewhere in-between the Nintendo 3DS and Switch. I don’t really think that graphics are the most important part of gaming, but it is incredibly ridiculous to pretend that Devil May Cry gameplay looks amazing. My screenshot from the video doesn’t do a good job of representing the gameplay, but if you watch the video it isn’t some fantastic revolution in game graphics.

Storage access is supposed to be twice as fast, and there is a new 2TB storage option. The iPad Pro gets Thunderbolt and USB 4 support through the USB-C port. Apple boasted about the new iPad Pro working with their Pro Display XDR at the full 6K resolution using third-party docks. The new iPad Pro supports 5G, which makes it more ridiculous that the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air don’t have a 5G option. The front-facing camera on the 2021 iPad Pro has been updated with a new feature called Center Stage that keeps people centered in the camera view for FaceTime calls. They didn’t say this during the infomercial, but third-parties can access that functionality as well. Apple also demonstrated augmented reality video creation using their Clips app so you can add AR effects to videos.

The 2021 iPad Pro 12.9” also gets a Liquid Retina XDR display that uses the new Mini LED technology that makes the display brighter. The 11” iPad Pro doesn’t get the same boost.

There is a new white color option for both the iPad Pro and the Magic Keyboard for iPad. I returned the Magic Keyboard for iPad (see the review here) after I realized it will disintigrate slowly and then rapidly due to me not living inside of a void with perfectly clean living conditions. Pre-orders go up on the 30th and it’ll ship in the second half of May. The price supposedly is unchanged, or at least the basic price is for the 11” version is still $800. 

I can understand why people might still want a larger iPad Pro option. 12.9” is still the biggest you can get today and it isn’t clear why you can’t get a large-screened iPad Air or iPad Cheap. There are plenty of people who would pay more for a larger screen but who don’t need the better screen technology or faster processor and just need the size of a 12.9” or bigger iPad to get things done.

Overall

The products in this infomercial are fine with the exception of the rent-seeking podcasts app update and whatever is going on with the Apple TV 4K. I’d buy one, but I’m also deeply invested in technology and can’t imagine how Apple would convince someone to buy an Apple TV 4K at $180 over a $35 Roku or another competitor. The biggest reason I’m interested in an Apple TV 4K versus the cheaper streaming devices or the stuff built into a TV is that Apple’s device won’t spy on your viewing habits but Apple’s presenters didn’t even talk about that, presumably because they have relationships with the companies that sell those devices and TVs. The other reasons are Apple Arcade, and their Fitness+ subscription service but you also need an Apple Watch and the Watch can’t really work without an iPhone.

It stinks that the 24” iMac isn’t available in a larger size like 27” and it also isn’t great that they start at 256GB of storage. That’s fine for a cash register, but it isn’t great for people using them to play and work.

The M1 processors are supposed to be incredibly faster than the intel processors they are replacing, and in the case of the iPad Pro, even faster than the A12Z processors introduced last year. Both in terms of generalized processing and in terms of integrated graphics processing. The question now will be what happens when it comes time for bigger Macs like the 27” iMac, MacBook Pro 16”, and the biggest of them all, the Mac Pro. Apple said last year that this would be a two year transition for their product lineup. This gives businesses who use Macs daily time to transition their computers and technology stacks to support the new ARM-instruction-based Apple Silicon. Those more powerful intel Macs have depended upon third-party graphics accelerators from sometimes nvidia, and after nvidia’s relationship with Apple soured, AMD. I am very curious to see what happens with either Apple using their in-house revisions to the M1 to push it further, or to partner with a third-party like AMD and bring their technology as an add-on to the M-series of processors.

Beyond integrated versus discrete graphics, the M1 is currently also limited to 16GB of RAM. More than the iPad line has ever seen before, but the big boy Macs that will be replaced in the next year all have way higher capacity memory options. The 27” iMac currently goes up to 128 GB and the Mac Pro goes up to a whopping 1.5 TB! How Apple handles both of these graphics and memory issues will be interesting.

Apple workers need to be able to unionize if they want better conditions and decision making capabilities within the company. I’d love to see to what percentage of climate change is due to Apple and their products and services versus the constant claims of environmental quality during each section. Being “carbon neutral” and using recycled materials in their products is good, but it is most likely meaningless when climate change is killing people anyway and everything they do in creating and transporting these products is adding to that.

Mercifully, Apple hasn’t embraced cryptocurrency bullshit in any way. No NFTs or other blockchain grifts like that were mentioned during this presentation. They are often late to the game, so there is of course still time for Apple to introduce AppleCoin (yucko) or add Bitcoin support to the Apple Wallet. Bitcoin support would be even worse, because at least AppleCoin would go away in a few years when investors stop caring about it. In reality what we need is a complete and total ban on blockchain technologies in every country. India is ahead of the game here and is supposedly banning it which is the best news of the year.

Overdue for an update are the iPad Mini, which is currently at 765 days since the last update, and of course that 16” MacBook Pro and other high-end Macs like the 27” iMac that are still only available with intel processors.

Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro Review

Apple’s iPad devices are feeling more and more like laptop alternatives, for better or for worse they are now overloaded with features that let them multitask and confuse people who just want to use them without learning about hidden functionality that allows that multitasking.

All of the multi-tasking functionality is hidden behind swipes and gestures that are so obtuse Apple has to explain in a series of videos:

If only they had just had some kind of interface around apps that let you handle these things, like, I don’t know, window borders…

Still, it must be hard to go from an approachable app-based interface to one that adds multitasking when your apps didn’t really have room for multitasking functionality to start.

Which brings us to Apple’s addition of mouse functionality to the iPad last year.

Mouse support was hit or miss for a little while, but newer bluetooth mice work well, and the mouse cursor even adjusts to take over certain UI elements, a genuinely nifty trick that hasn’t been done before and improves the experience of mousing. Especially when so many apps end up using standard interface controls. The only downside is that many apps do not really support the new mousing modes, this is especially apparent if you use remote desktop software like VNC Viewer which expects a touch and so you have to click on the trackpad while you move the cursor or the mouse cursor won’t move at all. There is probably some VNC software that works better, but that’s just how some apps are setup. There is no “hover” state with touch like there is with a mouse cursor, so apps won’t work right away and this keyboard accessory has been out for almost an entire year.

The first iPad shipped eleven years ago alongside an optional keyboard dock, an odd device that made ergonomic sense for a workstation but couldn’t really be picked up and carried around. It also had a portrait layout instead of the wider landscape view that people have come to expect. Portrait mode can be preferable for writing since you can see more of your document, but it might not work as well if you’re going to watch a show or movie or something else you’re writing about in a picture-in-picture window.

Since 2015 Apple has sold a series of Smart Keyboards and Smart Keyboard Folio devices for the iPad line that just included a keyboard but also were handy and wrapped around the iPad to provide some protection and could be positioned with the keyboard tucked away behind the iPad while still holding the tablet upright or below it for typing. Handy, but also expensive keyboards. They’re still available, and bluetooth keyboards, including Apple’s own have worked for years, but Apple finally made a keyboard that includes one of their fantastic trackpads in the superfluously named Magic Keyboard for iPad.

The Magic Keyboard for iPad is an exceedingly silly name, but it’s nice to see Apple being a little bit whimsical when they’ve altogether attempted to eliminate the easter egg and other nice things under the watchful gaze of Jony Ive before he disappeared into the white void. Sadly there is only one color available, and it is black.

All that to say, the new keyboard is pretty good. For a company that fucked up their laptop keyboards for a great deal of time, the Magic Keyboard for iPad seems great.

Typing on the blessedly-not-butterfly switch mechanisms is pleasant and makes a cute thocky noise that might sound a little bit like a cartoonish idea of popcorn popping. The arrow keys are spaced out well with enough distance from the rest of the modifiers and alpha cluster that your hands can find them easily. The keys are by default backlit and because this is Apple the illumination is very even behind the legends. Only on the larger keycaps (return, caps lock) show any variance in the backlight.

The keyboard attaches to the iPad through a series of magnets on the back, it feels very secure in that sense but because the iPad is heavier than the keyboard the whole contraption can feel a little unstable on a lap when you’re sitting on the couch.

Despite not being coated in some kind of fabric like the Smart Keyboard was, the Magic Keyboard for iPad still has a very odd, very prominent, seam that extends over every edge. Someone I know has used that Smart Keyboard for years and the fabric has peeled off and it looks terrible at this point. The seam presumably indicates that is what is holding the soft-touch plastic part on, but it isn’t exactly reassuring in terms of longevity for a keyboard that you would hope you could keep using even when there is a newer iPad.

Since I have switched my desktop usage to mechanical keyboards I haven’t used a thin keyboard switch like this in a while, and even a traditional layout is kind of unusual. I’m a pretty big person so having my hands typing so close together isn’t as comfortable as I would like without an ergonomic split. I should say that I’m trying the keyboard for the 12.9” iPad Pro, I imagine that the 11” iPad Pro or 4th generation iPad Air and its smaller Magic Keyboard for iPad would be less comfortable.

While the layout of this keyboard is pretty impressive for a small space, especially to fit the amazing trackpad, there are a few other quirks.

For one, just like the Smart Keyboards that came before, there is no function row on the Magic Keyboard for iPad. This means no media keys, so no control over the keyboard backlight or media playback that you’ve come to expect from decades of Apple keyboards that included media controls. The backlight can be manually configured in Settings as can the touchpad. No escape key, either. However the good news is that you can reconfigure the modifier keys to serve other functions:

You may also note the “Globe key” that is similar to the globe key on the software keyboard in iPadOS and iOS. This key lets you type emoji or in my case I use it to switch between different languages.

On my mechanical keyboards I usually program the caps-lock key to be a modifier that unlocks additional functionality. Caps-lock and the 1 key gives me F1 and you can do all kinds of other wild stuff Apple would never include but I truly miss.

Other reviewers have pointed out that this keyboard is a bit heavy, but I previously had a bulky protective case on this iPad so for me it is lighter than before.

The substantial hinge mechanism adds to that bulk, and also adds another USB-C port to the left side of the iPad which conveniently lets you charge the iPad from desk-level instead of having a cable hanging out mid-air. Very thoughtful, but I believe it charges a bit slower through that C port. (Update: an earlier version of this article said there was no metal-to-metal contact for charging, closer inspect revealed the following) The back of the Magic Keyboard’s folio portion connects to the iPad through three pins that make contact with three contacts on the back of the iPad. That USB-C port also can’t be used for data, so an external mouse or thumb drive can’t be used with the port at the hinge. That port must transmit just enough data for the keyboard signals and power for the backlight, so the good news is that you don’t have to charge the keyboard separately.

Sadly, the hinge also just isn’t as flexible as the Smart Keyboard. So you can’t leave the Magic Keyboard for iPad attached and use it like a stand but with the keyboard hidden behind the iPad.

There also just isn’t enough protection built into this case. While it is very easy to intentionally detach an iPad from the Magic Keyboard for iPad using the magnetic mechanism, you’re left with no protection at all but that is the only way I’ve found to keep using my iPad to watch a show while doing something messy like washing dishes. The Apple Store sells another case for the iPads that are compatible with the Magic Keyboard for iPad but with the MSRP for the keyboard case at an eye-watering $350 I’m not sure adding another $70 for that case on top is reasonable. You can even buy some iPads brand new for $300!

A basic M1 equipped MacBook Air is around a thousand dollars and is practically the most powerful computer you can buy right now, even more powerful than many of the “Pro” intel computers Apple still sells and it also has a keyboard built-in and runs macOS.

The iPad Pro 12.9” is the same thousand-dollar-ish price, but doesn’t include a keyboard or trackpad and is less flexible in some ways but more portable in others and has a processor that for all real purposes hasn’t been updated since 2018. Granted, the A12X still feels plenty fast but that is only because iPadOS is so aggressive about memory management and processing management. Applications on iPadOS just can’t hog resources like macOS programs can. Adding on the Magic Keyboard for iPad makes the iPad Pro Keyboard and Trackpad chimera about $1350.

The advantage the Magic Keyboard for iPad has is that it also works with iPad Pro devices from 2018 and the lesser-priced ($600) iPad Air. The iPad Air also has a newer processor (A14, non-X), but no FaceID and is only available in one size, 10.9 inches. The Magic Keyboard for the iPad Air and iPad Pro also starts cheaper, it’s $250. That is the iPad I’d probably recommend to someone who is desperate for one today unless you need the larger physical size (12.9”) and higher capacity of the 512 or 1TB storage on the iPad Pro. In which case the rumor sites are all imploring you to wait.

Wait for what? An updated iPad Pro. Ah, but will it work with the same Magic Keyboard for iPad? I have no idea, but you hope so.

Overall, I really enjoy the Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro more than I thought I would. I can be very productive with a bluetooth mouse and keyboard and the iPad, but bluetooth devices just aren’t as easy to set up and use as the Magic Keyboard for iPad.

However, in a desktop scenario the iPad can’t really be separated more from the Magic Keyboard which just isn’t as good ergonomically and that is disappointing, your display should be at or slightly below eye level but this is just how laptop-ish devices are. There are other quirks, the biggest of which is the ridiculous price, and that is why this amazing Magic Keyboard for iPad and trackpad only gets 3 out of 5 stars. It is magic, but wow do you pay for it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Now, if I could dream, I’d have a real programmable mechanical keyboard attachment for the iPad, and could download an emulator or other software outside of Apple’s App Store without having to reauthorize the installation every few days.

It’s New (Old) iPad Day

New iPad air and iPad mini with Apple Pencil

If you don’t want to waste time at an upcoming event by talking about updates to old products that nobody will think about for too long, you do it in a press release.

As rumored, that’s what Apple has done with this press-release update to their iPad lineup. The iPad Mini has been updated for the first time in almost 4 years, and the iPad Air  has been revived as a higher-end alternative to the iPad Cheap. Both devices got Apple Pencil support… sort of.

The iPad Mini 5 is the 7.9 inch device that can fit into the pocket of your Jnco Jeans, as long as you can track a pair down. Unfortunately the Jnco Jeans business doesn’t appear to be going well and their website is offline.

The iPad Air was last updated almost 5 years ago, with the 2nd generation model and is suspiciously 10.5”. You might remember a 10.5” iPad Pro that was replaced with the 11” model last October. That’s where this 3rd generation iPad Air form-factor is from.

Both devices get the A12 system-on-a-chip (SOC) from the latest iPhones, but not the A12X from the latest iPad Pros. So they won’t be quite as powerful, and we won’t have any benchmarks or information about clockspeeds and amount of RAM until reviewers get their hands on these updated models.

Both devices also get support for Apple’s stylus, but not the cool new one from the 2018 iPad Pros.

Both new-old hybrid iPads have the classic big-bezel design, not the new iPad Pro/iPhone X design with minimal bezels around the edges that’s neccessary for 2nd-generation Apple Pencil stylus.

That new Apple Pencil charges and when it is magnetically held-in-place to one side of those new Pros. The new Apple Pencil also has one flat side, so it won’t roll off a table. The 1st generation Apple Pencil supported by these newly updated tablets with old form-factors still has all of those first-generation Apple Pencil issues and is ready and willing to roll off your table and get lost under the couch.

Not receiving any updates today is the 2018 iPad Cheapwhich still has an A10 SOC, older (pre-Air 2) display technology, and the same 1st generation Apple Pencil support.

This old Apple Pencil support is almost vindictive at this point. Why does Apple want to punish lower-end iPad users with a worse stylus experience? Why sell people a stylus that probably won’t work with the next iPad they buy?

If these iPads are the future of labor, entertainment, and creative expression, Apple needs to treat the people buying these devices better. All iPads should have a similar design, and flat sides so they can support the same stylus that won’t roll off the table.

Lets revisit our oldest friend, with an updated logo, the table of confusing iPad decisions:

The logo for The Table of Confusing iPad Decisions

  • 2018 iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A10 SOC
    • 2GB RAM
    • Supports the ($100) Apple Pencil.
    • Old-ass 1st generation Touch ID.
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 5 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 1st-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • 2nd (presumably)-generation Touch ID
    • A12 SOC
    • ?GB RAM
    • 64GB ($400) for the WiFi-only model, 256GB ($550)
    • 64GB with Cellular ($530), 256GB with Cellular ($680)
  • iPad Air 3 at 10.5″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 2017-era iPad Pro Smart Connector
    • 1st-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • 2nd (presumably)-generation Touch ID
    • A12 Processor
    • ?GB RAM
    • 64GB ($500) for the WiFi-only model, 256GB ($650)
    • 64GB with Cellular ($630), 256GB ($780)
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • Face ID
    • A12X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 2018 Smart connector
    • 2nd-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • WiFi Only: 64GB ($1000) 256GB ($1150) 512GB ($1350) 1TB ($1750)
    • Cellular: 64GB ($1150) 256GB ($1300) 512GB ($1500) 1TB ($1900)
  • iPad Pro at 11″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • Face ID
    • A12X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 2018 Smart connector
    • 2nd-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • WiFi Only: 64GB ($800) 256GB ($950) 512GB ($1150) 1TB ($1550)
    • With Cellular: 64GB ($950) 256GB ($1100) 512GB ($1300) 1TB ($1700)

All of the new models are available now in most countries.

It’s good that the iPad Mini form-factor has finally been updated, and there’s a mid-tier for people who want a 10-ish-inch iPad with better parts than the iPad Cheap, without spending the $800 for an 11” iPad Pro. This is a complicated line-up, but there are finally clear “best” iPads with the Pro devices which have the ProMotion variable frame-rate that make for an extremely smooth visual experience. Scrolling through app icons on the home screen is ridiculous on devices with that high framerate.

The year-old iPad Cheap with it’s A10 SOC is probably still fine for most people, but I would think twice before buying it for myself.

The cheapest option for an iPad will always be a refurbished or used model, but I would steer clear of the 5 and 4-year-old previous models of iPad Mini 4 and iPad Air 2. ProMotion is also on the older 2017 iPad Pro models.

Hopefully this year’s WWDC event will bring some announcements of changes in iOS 13 to properly support more advanced workflows beyond the simple Siri Shortcuts available to us today. These devices have never been more unbalanced in terms of how much functionality the hardware could support, and how little iOS is taking advantage of the hardware.