Apple’s Spring Loaded Event, the company’s first product launch of 2021, had big announcements for new iterations of some of our favorite products. Though, while many will celebrate the arrival of improved hardware, there were also a few incumbent products and services (and emotions) that won’t fare so well after the latest announcements.
Obviously there’s no telling if Apple will truly deliver the final blow to the entries on this list but things are going to get a lot more difficult now that Apple has joined the tracking, video-calling, and podcast distribution world in a big way.
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Tile trackers are likely to be the big casualty of the AirTags launch, the devices that bring the Find my iPhone feature to non-Apple products.
Apple hasn’t made it easy for Tile - AirTags cost about as much as a Tile Mate ($29 to $25) and also have a one-year battery life with a replaceable battery.
In fact, Apple AirTags could offer other enhancements, including free custom engravings, so you can be sure which tag belongs to which item and they should be easier to find too.
We’ll have to see how they work in practice but given that the iPhone is the “most popular smartphone in the world” - if you take the latest quarterly smartphone stats from Gartner - it could be that AirTags are considerably more reliable as they’ll offer the location of your lost item every time any iPhone users walks past one, rather than someone who needs to be running a separate app like Tile.
And Tile certainly isn’t happy about it - the brand is about to testify in front of Congress to claim that Apple’s launch of AirTags is anti-competitive:
“Our mission is to solve the everyday pain point of finding lost and misplaced things and we are flattered to see Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world, enter and validate the category Tile pioneered," said the item-tracking brand in a statement.
“We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition. Unfortunately, given Apple’s well-documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we’re skeptical.
“And given our prior history with Apple, we think it is entirely appropriate for Congress to take a closer look at Apple’s business practices specific to its entry into this category.”
iPad Pro (2020)
The new iPad Pro (2021) looks certain to have blown its predecessor out of the water, and it's barely been a year since the iPad Pro (2020) was released. It’s now off sale at Apple, and seems to be running low on stock elsewhere too - but even if you were in the market for last year’s model, it’s going to be a tough choice.
We want to try out the iPad Pro 2021 for ourselves before passing judgment, but what we saw from Apple’s presentation has us impressed. Firstly, the iPad Pro (2021) will use Apple’s M1 chip - the processor that gives life to its new iMac and MacBook computers - and will see a 50% boost in power over the iPad Pro (2020) as a result.
The iPad Pro (2021) will also come with 5G connectivity, an improved Liquid Retina display that packs in 10,000 mini LEDs to improve the quality of the screen and there will even be a 2TB version.
It looks set to be a major upgrade over the previous iteration; it’s just a shame to see the iPad Pro (2020) outclassed so soon if you shelled out for last year’s model and can’t stand to not have the latest iteration
Facebook Portal TV and Amazon Echo Show 10
We were already disappointed with the Facebook Portal in our review (only giving it two and a half stars), and Apple now bringing similar person tracking and allowing you to use the tech in any video calling app makes the dedicated Facebook hardware even less appealing.
Amazon’s Echo Show 10 is definitely a superior product to the Portal in many ways, but it too could suffer now the iPad Pro is bringing out similar functionality.
The way the iPad Pro 2021 is designed to follow the user is definitely borrowing elements from the USP of these two products and is a far more competent - if wildly more expensive - device.
Given how important video calling has become this year it makes sense that Apple would look to make every improvement it can to the audio and video capabilities of each of its products, and the enhancements aren’t just locked to the iPad Pro.
Apple claims the iMac (2021) will be able to decrease delay times during calls and reduce how often people talk over each other, so perhaps awkward FaceTime or Zoom calls will begin to reduce.
It’s also got an improved webcam inside, using the M1 processing to make you look even clearer in your latest work meeting when actually you’re trying to hide your pyjama bottoms.
Not all of the losses are bad - the company made some good announcements to do with its waste-killing green initiatives.
Tim Cook began the Spring Loaded presentation by announcing that Apple is now carbon neutral across its global corporate operations and that it plans to be neutral across its entire supply chain by 2030.
Other members of the company also announced that upcoming products like the iMac (2021) and new Apple TV 4K will use 100% recycled metals for some of their components - although this is something that’s been touted for a few years now. On top of that, both products boasted that no waste from some assembly sites was sent to landfill - again, it will be interesting to see how Apple manages its 2030 pledge to see if it can stop all waste being processed into the ground.
While more certainly can be done, Apple’s initiatives are steps in the right direction towards more sustainable production, so we’ll give it a well done for continuing to move forward on this initiative.
For you podcast junkies out there, you might find that Apple has killed off your last chance to pretend that you’ll get round to supporting your favorite podcast.
So many podcasts are trying to monetize with extra services on platforms like Patreon, and while many might want to support them, it can be a hassle getting your bonus content elsewhere.
By baking Subscriptions right into the Podcast app, it’ll be a much swifter decision to send a few pennies to that artist you listen to week in, week out, and skip the ads on - so your guilt is about to be appeased, even if your bank balance isn’t.
Of course, we'll have to see how the model works in practice to know if this is actually a good deal for them or not - 30% cut in the first year isn’t great, but the uptick in payments might offset that.
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Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.