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Apple’s Surprise: iPads, iMacs, and AirPods Released in Run-up to Services Event


Benjamin Schmidt

Thu, 21 Mar 2019 14:48 GMT

It's been quite a week for Apple updates, and it's not even March 25th yet. A week before the company's much-anticipated "It's Showtime" event, which is expected to debut a new video-streaming service, as well as a news subscription service, the company has released a raft of hardware updates.

New product announcements have included new iPads on Monday, March 18th, new iMacs on Tuesday, March 19th, and new AirPods on Wednesday, March 20th.

The iPad upgrades - including the first iPad mini update since 2015 - notably added the latest A12 Bionic processors used in the newest iPhones as well as compatibility with the Apple Pencil stylus. The tablets begin at $399 for the 64GB iPad mini and $499 for the 64GB iPad Air.

Fans of current iMacs will note that Apple has kept the same form factor and upgraded the internals with faster processors and graphics performance. Gaming should be smoother and faster than ever with the addition of Radeon Vega graphics cards, raising graphics performance by 50 to 80% from previous models, according to Apple.

CPU performance has also been given a boost. Apple says the 21-inch iMac is 60% faster than before. The smaller model also sports an option for a six core CPU, up from a previous four cores. For the larger 27-inch iMac, a six core Intel i5 CPU is now standard, and Apple has added the ability to upgrade to an eight core Intel i9 CPU, with more than double the speed of the previous high-end 27-inch iMac. Prices start at $1,299 for the 21-inch model and $1,799 for the 27-inch model.

AirPods - Apple's line of high-end wireless earphones - have also been upgraded to what Apple claims is a 24-hour battery life, and twice the talk time from the original model debuted in December 2016. Users of the distinctive white earbuds can also conveniently activate Apple’s Siri digital assistant using the “Hey, Siri” verbal prompt.

The rapid Bluetooth pairing debuted on first generation AirPods - which spurred Google to design a similar feature for use on Android - is now even faster. Bluetooth pairing between the iPhone and AiPods is now up to 2x quicker, according to Apple, thanks to an all-new H1 headphone chip. The wireless earphones start at $159, and for an extra $40 customers can get them with a new wireless charging case, compatible with all Qi-compatible charging mats.

As a backdrop to these new hardware updates, new hints indicate that Apple is preparing to finally release its AirPower charging mat, possibly as soon as this week. Originally announced with a 2018 release date, manufacturing and electrical issues related to the mat's promised ability to charge multiple devices at once, forced Apple to delay its release. The charging mat has not been officially mentioned again by Apple since. However, there has been a steady stream of leaks about the company’s efforts to work out the device’s kinks, culminating in several reports released this week.

A Wall Street Journal article on Monday, March 20th reported that Apple approved production of its AirPower charging mat earlier this year. A day earlier, noticed that the iOS 12.2 beta release included support for the AirPower charging mat. Lastly, earlier this week Apple removed the last photo to the original AirPower mat from its website, adding credence to claims by analysts such as Ming-Chi Kuo who, according to MacRumors, have claimed that the AirPower mat would be launched in the first half of 2019.

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