New Airpods, MacBook Pro and more unveiled at Apple Keynote

On 18th October 2021, Apple went live to once again add some more devices to their ever-expanding product range. The California-based company not only released an all-new MacBook Pro with two new processor options; but also revisions to the HomePod mini and AirPods were revealed.

Starting off with the HomePod mini, Apple’s revision was incredibly simple – more colours, cheaper price. The mini version of Apple’s Google Home and Amazon Alexa competitor is now available in more than the original white and ‘space grey’ options that released in 2020. The HomePod mini now has a vibrant yellow or orange colour option, as well as the smart-looking navy blue that looks similar to that of last year’s iPhone 12 models.

The price of the smart speaker has also had a slight drop, now with a tag of £89, rather than the £99 it was released at last year. The price in America, however, is no different and still costs the original $99.

Finally, the HomePod mini is compatible with the new Apple Music subscription tier – ‘Apple Music Voice’ – which limits the subscription to only work with Siri in exchange for a cheaper price of £4.99 a month. This might seem limiting if you have an iPhone, but is an excellent way of saving money if you only use the HomePod smart speaker or regularly ask Siri to play your music.

The new colours of the HomePod mini will be available in ‘late November,’ according to the Apple website.

Image: Apple Newsroom.

To continue the discussion of audio; Apple have also revealed the third generation of the popular wireless earphones – AirPods. Initially being announced on stage in 2017 alongside the release of the iPhone 7; the AirPods rapidly became the device to beat in the Bluetooth earphones sector. Many companies rushed to develop their own versions, but none were quite as popular as AirPods.

The second generation of AirPods, with an optional wireless charging case, better battery life and more, was released in 2019; alongside the AirPods Pro – which featured an all new design and the noise cancellation feature.

Last night’s event marks the third generation of the base-model AirPods, which finally changes the design that many have come to know and love. The new design now mimics the shape of the AirPods Pro, with the short stem, better shaped ‘pods’ and wider charging case. However, it remains faithful to the originals by not including the silicon ear-tips, as well as not featuring the Pro model’s noise cancellation mode.

At £169, the new AirPods certainly look like a good upgrade for those that have either wired earphones or 1st generation AirPods. Not only does this revision include the spatial audio from the Pros, but it also features MagSafe – a feature that has been making a return to Apple products recently.

The AirPods Pro have also reduced in price to £239 from its original £249 price; though the 3rd generation AirPods really do seem to pack quite the punch at its price range and will be available to purchase on 26th October 2021.

 

The final announcement of the October 2021 keynote was the all new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros that feature the new M1 Pro and M1 Max processor chips, as well as some other ‘pro’ improvements.

The biggest change to the MacBook in this new generation is the screen, which now features a notch, very similar to the type that has been present on the last four years-worth of iPhone models. This notch acts as a housing for the camera while the rest of the screen is elevated to shrink the size of the bezels, thus giving the user an extra inch of screen space. The screen is officially called a ‘Liquid Retina XDR’ display and is capable of playing back 8K ProRes video.

The TouchBar (a small screen above the keyboard with touch controls) has been removed in the latest iteration of Apple’s MacBook Pro in favour of standard keyboard keys. The TouchID sensor, however, is still present on the keyboard and is used to make purchases and login to your profile. The chassis behind the keys has now changed from the colour of the laptop to black, which is a subtle, but appreciated attention to detail.

Ports have also made a welcome return, ending the pain that is the USB-C adapter that everyone would have to throw in their bags in order to use third party accessories. The new MacBook Pro models now feature a MagSafe 3 charging connector (ending the stress of tripping over your cable again); an improved headphone jack, three Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports, an HDMI port and SD card reader.

Finally, there is the M1 upgrade. Following the highly successful release of the M1 chip last year; Apple have now upscaled and produced two processor chips that takes everything about last year’s specifications and puts them to shame. The M1 Pro processor features a 8-core CPU and 14-core GPU, while the M1 Max processor comes with a 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU, which will run like nothing we have seen in a Mac before. These processors can be upgraded for a further increase in performance, and with a 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU option.

This really is an exciting development in the world of processing and Apple silicon.

The cheapest MacBook in the range is the 14-inch model, which starts at £1,899, while the 16-inch variant starts at £2,399. You can still purchase standard M1 MacBook Pros with the Touch Bar starting at £1,299. Orders for the new MacBook Pros start on 26th October 2021.

This concludes the coverage of the October 2021 Apple keynote, which was mainly used as a MacBook Pro announcement, but also saw exciting revisions of the AirPods and HomePod mini. Whether any more Apple products will drop in November or December is anybody’s guess; but what we do know for certain is that the future of MacBooks is looking promising…

Joe McCormick

[All images provided by Apple Newsroom.]

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