The most recent trend with Apple products is that they’re powered by processors created by the Cupertino-based company. And thanks to the marriage of Apple’s hardware and software, these devices can work together more seamlessly than ever, making each of them a compelling buy for those already using other Apple devices such as iPhones, Macs and Apple Watches.
Last November, Apple introduced the M1-powered MacBook Air, Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro. This marked the official switchover from Intel to Apple-made chips in a consumer release. The company recently took it a step further with the brand-new iMac — the first computer designed fully around the Apple-made M1 processor.
CNN Underscored had a chance to be the first outlet to chat with Apple’s Stephen Tonna, of Platform Product Marketing, and Laura Metz, from Mac Product Marketing, ahead of the official launch of the M1 Macs to get a deeper perspective of how they’ll shape the Apple landscape.
Continuity is the linchpin of the Apple experience — the software backbone that lets you easily move something from one device to another, all without really lifting a finger, be it in the form of a shared clipboard to easily copy and paste across your devices or in the ability to quickly share a PDF between devices. It’s the core utility features baked into iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and, of course, macOS. And with the new iMac’s 24-inch display, it might just be the perfect big screen and centerpiece to move your work onto.
“We’ve continued to add more and more capability over the years because we know that our users love this and it’s a great technology to build on,” Tonna explains. With macOS Big Sur, iOS and iPadOS apps now run on the Mac. These apps are now designed for the same foundation of the Apple-made processor, and developers don’t have to do heavy lifting. Moreover, neither do you, as you can easily move an iPhone app to the Mac.
Tonna sums up the ethos of this: “I’ll start something on my phone and I want to finish it on my Mac, [the] dock icon pops up, I click on it.” The app opens in the same fashion as it was on the original device and Handoff is triggered intelligently by knowing how close your devices are to one another.
And the list really does go on — AirDrop allows you to securely send files from device to device, Notes sync across and AirPods intelligently switch between your Apple devices. It’s best thought as an umbrella feature that keeps growing over time.
“It’s exactly our philosophy with how we build the hardware and the software, which is all about unique capabilities of the devices, but having them work seamlessly together,” says Tonna. And that’s an area where Apple has an edge. Samsung’s most recent Galaxy Book PCs are starting to work better with its Galaxy line of phones. But they don’t own the whole ecosystem from end to end — Galaxy phones run Android and PCs run Windows. It’s not the most straightforward puzzle to put together for these tech giants.
Now when you go to set up a Mac, like the new iMac, you’ll sign in with your iCloud account for an easy transition. And the new iMac is perhaps the best example yet of an Apple device that can serve as the central hub for your iPhone and iPad.
The new M1-powered iMac is built around Apple’s vision of its desktop computer: Its vision “has always been to make the computer disappear and just have it be what you need it to be in the home,” Metz describes. It’s how Apple delivered this ultra-thin all-in-one Mac that still delivers strong performance, and in a very 2021 way, how it can be the centerpiece of your work-from-home setup.
Alongside the M1 chip, the star of the new iMac is the 24-inch Retina display. It’s larger than any other M1 Mac available and gives you the space to have multiple windows open. The M1 chip inside ensures that you’re ready to work with efficiency and speed. And for those who need ports, the iMac retains a headphone jack along with up to four USB-C ports.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t chat on the colors of the iMac. The backside and the front bottom chin get a sleek paint job in one of six colors: green, yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue or silver. We recalled the iMac G3s, which had color, and to a degree, this 2021 model is almost like a throwback.
“It is fun to see these pops of color,” Metz says. “As we were just starting to have iMacs roll in and we’re just seeing the color for the first time in person, like on a bigger scale. I mean, you just see the natural smile on my face. We were all cool, literally giddy, it was like truly this is happiness.”
Since the iMac is stationary, you’ll also pick a place for it in your home or space. By design, it doesn’t take up a significant amount of room and you’ll only need one plug to work. It’s also multimodal by design with a hinge that lets you tilt the screen and multiple user support. This means that members of a whole family could each have their own account, which means more users who can take advantage of the expansive workstation.
The 24-inch screen makes it more appropriate for multitasking over a 13-inch MacBook Air. Pushing that further is Touch ID in the external Magic Keyboard. With the scan of your finger, iMac will log you in and your experience will be personalized. That sensor does double duty as well. It can authenticate purchases and even system admin tasks, along with letting you quickly switch between user accounts. You will need to get a slightly more expensive configuration or add it to your system to get it, however.
We have no fears about performance on this new desktop either and expect it to perform in line with, if not better than the M1 MacBook Air, 13-inch Macbook Pro or Mac Mini.
The 24-inch iMac feels like the perfect work-from-home computer with features that aim to make life easier with no heavy lifting. Continuity and Handoff are at the top of the list, and Metz reminds us that Apple has a strong track record of software updates. Just last fall, macOS Big Sur rolled out to Macs from 2013.
And if the 24-inch iMac or another Mac is your first computer from Apple, it will have a sense of familiarity with Apple’s other operating systems — iOS, iPadOS and macOS included. It’s especially true if you have an iPhone or an iPad. Apple’s macOS Big Sur ushered in this updated design language, and yes, it still inherently feels like the Mac. Additionally, Apple has been clear that iOS and macOS are not merging. “We have two kinds of primary goals,” Tonna says. “Definitely consistency where we think it’s appropriate, and then uniqueness where we think it’s appropriate, which is a lot easier said than done.” There needs to be a familiar nature across the apps, but the Mac lets you take advantage of more power to get stuff done.
Whether you opt for an M1-powered Mac with an active cooling system or an extra GPU core, they’re all powerful and efficient devices. Metz describes it as “awesome to have a range of devices that do meet your needs, whether you know you need to be moving around and you want this portable device or you need something in a small compact space or this wonderful all-in-one experience with the large display.” Between the MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro, Mac Mini and iMac, there’s a model for everyone.
In terms of value, you’re not shorthanded on the experience with any model. “You just have the freedom to use devices however you want,” Tonna says. “You don’t have to think about what’s where — you just know, it will be updated. And I think that’s a really big value proposition for our users.” You’ll be supported by software and get utility features right out of the box. If you need to copy a secure token from Outlook on your Mac to your iPhone, you can do it, thanks to a universal clipboard. If you’re shooting photos or capturing video on your iPhone, you know that will sync across the cloud. This way, if you go to view it on your Mac, it’s there with no heavy lifting.
The ecosystem is something that Apple does very well and with privacy at the forefront of it. Other brands offer similar features, but it’s not the same software across them, and the brand might not own every aspect of that experience. “This is one of those things that, you know, only Apple could do, because we build the hardware, the software and we have the services tied in with it that lets us deliver this uniquely seamless and secure experience for our users,” Tonna explains.
A key factor is that it’s not about purchasing a single piece of hardware entirely. It’s also about how it plays with other devices. You’re also buying into how they work together, and things like easy sharing between devices are probably simply built into your routine.
In typical Apple fashion, you can expect improvements and more utility features to arrive whenever the next software update ships. We couldn’t get Metz or Tonna to comment on that. Still, it’s clear that they firmly believe the Mac is better when used in this connected ecosystem.
“This is a new era for the Mac, and we’re just getting started,” says Tonna. M1’s already delivered significant boosts, and we’re eager to see what’s next — for the Mac and the Apple ecosystem of products and software, along with how the competition responds.