Hello everyone, we’re here with a little (ok, long) teaser, since Apple will likely be making new announcements at their WWDC conference on June 7. We don’t know what they’ll have to say, but rumors suggest new 14-inch and 16-inch high-end MacBook Pro models with Apple processors. We’ll report on that when it’s official! In the meantime, we thought it would be a good moment to review Apple’s entire product line.
OK to Update to Big Sur
First off, many of you have been asking if it’s ok to update to Big Sur. The answer is yes, and it’s probably even a good idea, but please make sure you have a full Time Machine backup first. If you’re already on Catalina, it will probably be a seamless transition; if you’re on Mojave or earlier, you may need to buy new versions of older software, and, if you use iTunes, prepare yourself to adapt to changes. If you have any questions about any of this, please ask us.
Mac: Apple’s desktop and laptop computers are having their best moment in a decade. Apple processors have started to replace Intel processors in various Mac models, and these new machines offer great performance and battery life. So far, Apple has only introduced one processor, called M1, and thus far have used it in their lower-cost products: MacBook Air, two-port MacBook Pro, four-port Mac mini, and 24-inch iMac. These Mac models are arguably better than the more expensive models still sporting Intel chips. Those will be replaced soon enough, and we’d recommend deferring purchases of machines like the 27-inch iMac or the 16-inch MacBook Pro unless you need it now, or have a specific need for Intel-based models (like running software made for the Microsoft Windows operating system). If Apple can keep rocking faster processors, as they have for the last decade in their mobile products, Mac users have a bright future ahead.
iPhone: Apple’s iPhone lineup remains solid as usual, but what’s notable is that it’s now accessible to those who don’t want to spend a thousand bucks on a phone. The iPhone 12 models are all top performers, with the 12 and 12 mini being more than enough phone for all but photographers, who might opt for the 12 Pro or 12 Pro Max models. But the iPhone SE, at $399 (and often on sale at Amazon or Best Buy for $350), if you don’t mind its dated appearance, does everything you want an iPhone to do. Or, if you want a “modern” iPhone with a big screen and Face ID, there is the iPhone Xr at $499, whose major downside is that it’s a three-year-old model, so it may stop being supported by Apple sooner than other currently sold models.
iPad: Candidly, I’m not really an iPad user, so my comments might not be from the heart. But we have many clients who love their iPads. Like the iPhone, there’s top-tech models on the high-end, but perfectly good affordable models as well; the base model, simply called iPad, at $329, and often cheaper at retailers, is one of Apple’s best values. The new iPad Pro is, on the inside, fundamentally the same as a MacBook Air, and early reports suggest that it’s a delight, if held back from being a “real computer” by the current capabilities of iPadOS. The new 12.9-inch model in particular is said to have a truly phenomenal screen, as it features a new Mini-LED technology for much greater brightness, color richness, and contrast. In between is the iPad Air, which gives you the same edge to edge screen as the 11-inch iPad Pro, but without the price. Apple’s Magic Keyboard will turn your iPad into a laptop, which might be appealing if you prefer iPadOS to macOS. And the iPad mini is still around for those who want something compact.
iPod touch: Did you know this still exists? It’s an iPhone without the phone, though you could still use it for FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Google Voice, and other voice and video services over WiFi. It will run pretty much any app that an iPhone will.
AirTag: Never lose anything again, thanks to Apple’s Find My network they developed for iPhones. What’s not to like? Well, AirTags are a little chunky compared to some of Tile’s products, and have no means of self-adhering, so you have to use some kind of holder with them, adding to the cost. Still, the fact that anyone with a passing iPhone can help you locate a lost bag or keys is pretty compelling. They might be too thick to keep in your wallet, but some people are using AirTag to find their pets!
Apple Watch: I’m not an Apple Watch user, either, so my comments are not as informed as they might be otherwise. Apple Watch has really gained focus as a health device, and, based on what I’ve read and heard, it succeeds in that task, with Apple regularly expanding both its hardware and software capabilities. As with the iPhone, Apple has seen fit (get it) to make a more affordable model, the Apple Watch SE, which might be attractive if you don’t care about the always-on display of the Watch 6 (which, personally, I do, because I think a watch should always tell you the time, just on principle). Apple still sells the Watch 3 as the cheapest option, but I can’t recommend it because of the short shelf life it is likely to have for watchOS updates.
Apple TV: Apple TV suffers from confusing branding, since the same name is used for a hardware streaming box, a multi-platform app, and a paid streaming service. Now that Apple has fixed the design of the remote control , the hardware streaming box is more pleasant to use than its competitors such as Roku and Fire Stick, though it is many times the price. And, if you have a newer television, it may not be something you need at all, since your TV is likely to provide its own direct access to popular streaming channels and even AirPlay. The Apple TV+ subscription service appears to be its own low-key success, with a small but well-curated selection of high-quality original programming, and you can access it on many newer TV’s, Roku, and Fire Stick models, in addition (of course) to Apple’s products.
HomePod mini: At $99, HomePod mini is a pretty solid value if you need a semi-portable high-quality speaker; it’s better and cheaper than many of its wireless speaker peers. It also offers a virtual assistant in Siri (like a dumber Alexa, who is already pretty dumb). The knock on HomePod mini is that it is primarily oriented around Apple Music; it doesn’t integrate directly with Spotify, Tidal, or Amazon Music, like Sonos does. For those, you can use AirPlay — and, unlike a Bluetooth speaker, you don’t need to be in proximity. If you want a multi-room setup that supports Spotify, get a Sonos; but if you want a wireless speaker that’s better than your average Bluetooth option at a fair price, HomePod mini is a good choice (though it remains to be seen whether Apple keeps it around, given that they already discontinued the original Homepod and are selling their remaining inventory).
AirPods: Apple is rumored to be introducing a new, redesigned model of their base AirPods model any day now. With that said, I still think AirPods are great. I like the AirPods Pro better because of their noise canceling feature, but sometimes I don’t like that they seal in my ear, and then I prefer to use the originals. At any rate, I go back and forth all the time, and I love my AirPods. Many cheaper non-Apple alternatives have sprung up, some of which are said to be good, but haven’t tried them. Both the regular and Pro model are often on sale at retailers like Amazon for less than what Apple sells them for. There is the AirPods Max, Apple’s over-ear traditional headphones, which are supposed to sound great and have superb noise canceling, but both their weight and price ($549) are heavy. I haven’t tried ’em, and I haven’t seen anyone wearing them, which is not that surprising when similar very high quality products exist from well-established vendors like Bose and Sony at half the price.
Subscription services: If you’ve used an Apple product lately, you’ve probably had to dismiss (or submit to) half a dozen pitches for Apple subscription services: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and additional iCloud storage. I’m sure there will be only more of these to come. These services are not without value if you like them, but there sure is a lot of nagging. At any rate, Apple now offers various combinations of these in a bundle called Apple One; the top option, which includes everything, is a meaningful money saver if you’d otherwise be paying for the same services à la carte; the cheaper options represent more modest savings.
Of course, there’s other stuff like Apple Card and various magnet accessories for iPhone 12 and whatnot, but none of it is that exciting, so we’ll call it a wrap. If you have any questions about any Apple products, please ask!