What Apple Unleashed at the October Event

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Unleashed

Today was Apple's second big event in as many months, this time entitled "Unleashed." Instead of iPhones and Apple Watches, as were the focus in September, this was all about the Macs. Well, Macs and AirPods. If you are one who wants the power of a true pro-level MacBook, and the M1-powered models already available just didnt' do it for you, you're going to love this. If you're a fan of AirPods, but have wished for a refreshed version, you will also find something of interest. There was even a small Apple Music surprise, and new colors for the HomePod Mini smart speaker. Oh, and we found out that macOS Monterey will arrive on October 25.

MacBook (finally) Pro

The first M1 Macs are great. A good screen, long battery life, cool operation, and more all make M1 MacBook Airs pretty cool little machines. But it's no secret that the pro variant wasn't exactly, well, pro. There were some improvements, sure, but the ram topped out at 16GB, the USB capacity was limited, the screens were brighter, but not too different from what the Air had... For a lot of users, the M1 MacBook Pro felt more like a slightly improved Air, rather than the truly professional machine its users wanted. It even had the same chip as the Air, just set to run a little faster.

Well, no more. Apple loves its pro users, as it so often says, and today it showed those people just how much it cares. The new MacBook Pro, in 14- and 16-inch sizes, is completely reimagined. The speed is way above the M1, the screen is far better, the IO is much improved, and MagSafe has finally made its triumphant return to the MacBook lineup.

On the outside, the MacBook Pro is slightly larger than the M1 model it replaces. The keyboard is all keys, with the much-debated Touch Bar finally replaced by full-sized function keys. Yes, full-sized, as in not the half-height keys so many of us have known for years. The arrows are also in the inverted T shape, not the awkward setup where the up and down arrows were half height and stuck between left and right. Of course, the power button doubles as a Touch ID sensor.

As mentioned, the IO is quite a bit better than we've seen on a MacBook for years. There are three Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, any of which can charge the machine. An SD card slot, HDMI 2.0 port, and headphone jack (capable of handling high impedance headphones) give users a wide range of options compared to the strategy of USB-C for everything that we've seen in previous generations. An updated MagSafe port rounds out the IO, able to give the computer 50% charge in just half an hour.

The screen has changed, too. It extends closer to the edge of the laptop, so there's now a notch for the (newly upgraded, 1080P) camera. The display now uses mini LED technology, which, to put it very basically, just looks better. Specifically, mini LED screens use a different kind of backlight than LCD screens. This lets blacks be darker, light text on dark backgrounds be sharper, details stand out more, and the screen as a whole be brighter. Here's an article talking more about mini LED vs LCD vs OLED. As that article mentions, mini LED screens first came to Apple's product lineup earlier this year with the updated 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Now, the same technology arrives in Apple's high-end MacBooks, which is great news for those who need better detail and contrast, as is the screen's ability to be twice as bright as the M1 MacBook Pro. But that's not us, in all probability, so let's keep going.

The new MacBook Pro sports improved sound. The onboard microphones are quieter, but the focus was the speakers. With lower bass, larger drivers, and better tuning, Apple say this is the best audio in a MacBook. It even supports their new spacial audio format.

At the heart of this new machine is one of two upgraded M1 chips: the M1 Pro, or the M1 Max. Both variants have some commonalities: they have ten cores, two of which are low-power ones meant to handle basic tasks, leaving eight high-power cores to chew through more demanding tasks. Add to that sixteen or thirty-two graphics cores, and you get quite the powerhouse. Like the original M1, these new chips are good on battery, too, with the smaller MacBook Pro getting seventeen hours of battery life while playing back videos, and the larger model boasting an impressive twenty-one hours.

Thanks to the upgraded chips, you can spec your MacBook with a lot more resources than you could with last year's M1. The M1 Pro chip supports up to 32GB of ram, sixteen video cores, and the power to drive two 5K displays over Thunderbolt. The M1 Max can do even more: it can handle up to 64GB of ram, 32 video cores, and three external displays.

Apple provided a lot of comparisons between M1 Pro/Max and both the original M1 as well as the most recent Intel-based MacBooks. The short version: these new chips are really, really fast. The Pro beats Intel by 3.7 times in CPU tasks, and nine times in graphics. Even compared to the M1, it's up to twice as fast in the graphics department. The M1 Max has twice the graphics cores and even more CPU power to play with... Again, these chips are fast.

A bright, clearer screen, more ports, MagSafe, vastly upgraded M1 chips, and improved audio all add up to a truly pro-level MacBook. You can get your very own, if you want one; pre-orders open today, with delivery by next week. The starting price is $1,999 for the 14-inch, and $2,499 for the 16-inch. You can choose from silver or space gray. Here's a helpful article comparing these new models to other recent MacBooks.

Apple Music and Colorful HomePods

This section will be brief. HomePod Mini got a refresh, but not anything that will make you want to run out and get a new one--no upgraded speakers or faster processors here. No, all that changed was the color. In addition to the gray and white options we've had since the Mini launched, we now have orange, yellow, and blue to choose from. If you've ever wanted to make your HomePod Mini look like a pumpkin for Halloween, I guess this is your time. (Note: I haven't found any sources discussing the new colors in detail, so pumpkin orange may not be what you get. Go orange at your own risk.)

As for Apple Music, there's now a new tier. For $4.99 per month (about half of the individual tier with which the service launched), you can get voice-only access. In other words, if you usually access Apple Music through Siri on a HomePod or your phone, this might be a good option for you. The limitations of the plan aren't quite clear yet, but the general consensus is that you get access to the full song catalog through Siri. You also get Apple's playlists, like Chill Mix. What you likely can't do is add songs to custom playlists, download tracks, or add songs to your library. Again, though, information is still coming in, so we'll know more soon.

AirPods 3

To listen to your new Apple Music, why not try some AirPods? AirPods Pro are still available, but now come in a MagSafe-compatible case. AirPods 2 are also still for sale, at a reduced price of $129, which includes the Qi-compatible case (I don't believe this model of AirPods can handle MagSafe.) The star of the show, though, is the new mid-range option: AirPods 3.

Physically, these new AirPods have a stem that looks like AirPods Pro. They also use the squeezing method for control, rather than the tap method used in AirPods 2. They lack ear tips, and don't offer active noise cancellation, though no one is sure whether they are meant to seal and prevent most sound, or allow sound in like AirPods 2. Also similar to AirPods Pro is the battery. This new model has six hours of playback, with twenty four hours more in the charging case. Also, the earbuds and case are both IPX4, meaning they can survive the sweat of a workout, or the soaking of rain during an outdoor walk.

But enough about all that--how do they sound? No one knows yet, of course, but Apple is making some good-sounding claims. They say there's a new driver, with lower distortion, more bass, and better highs. AirPods 3 also support Active EQ, which uses microphones to listen to how the sound coming from the earbuds is moving inside your ears. AirPods will tune the sound frequencies based on the shape of your ears to give you the best possible experience, such as slightly increasing some frequencies and reducing others. This is present in AirPods Pro and AirPods Max already.

Also coming to AirPods 3 from the higher-end AirPods line is Spacial Audio support. This is the feature that lets you turn your head and have the sound move. In movies, for instance, the audio seems to move to your left if you turn your head to the right. In music, you can "look" at an instrument or backup singer and the sound stage will shift, bringing the part you're focusing on to the center. Note that this requires compatible music and that you have the necessary operating system update on your device.

AirPods 3 can be pre-ordered today, and will be delivered next week. They are $179. If you're stuck between this new model and AirPods 2, this article comparing the two may help.

Until Next Year

That's it for today's "Unleashed" event, and is very likely all we'll get for big Apple events until 2022. AirPods 3, new HomePod Mini colors, voice-only Apple Music, and--the star of the show--a new MacBook Pro, powered by either M1 Pro or M1 Max. Will you be ordering anything? Maybe an 8TB MacBook Pro with M1 Max? That'd cost kind of a lot. But by comparison, those new AirPods seem like a steal, don't they? Or will you just take advantage of the price drop and grab AirPods 2 instead? Let me know in the comments!

Blog Tags

Options

Comments

Submitted by Jenna Pepper on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

I haven't seen enough improvement in Voiceover for Mac OS to justify picking one of these up. Maybe a Mac Mini for music production, but unless they fix Braille, I will continue to trudge along with Windows.

The AirPods seem like a nice little update, and it's about time we saw MagSafe on them. Now everything can attach. All Apple has to do is make a fancy first-party pad and we're golden. $130 for AirPods 2 seems like a very reasonable price, given the tech inside. I hope AirPods 3 have a substantial improvement in sound quality. They really, really need it so they can stop getting clobbered by wired headphones one third of the price.

Submitted by John Hope on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Thank you for the great summary.

For the first time in many years, Apple's specification and pricing of the MacBook Pro makes it very clear that I am not a “Pro” and that the MacBook Air is where I should start and stop looking.

Previously, the price gap between the Air and Pro was close enough that I couldn't help but look up and convince myself that the Pro was worth the extra money, even though the specs actually offered nothing for my use case.

I can't see that happening now.

Submitted by Chris on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I really like the idea of M1, even though I'm still convinced it's not worth it due to macOS lock-in. I'm sure they're great machines from a hardware standpoint, but Apple's lack of reparability, combined with the horrendous state of VoiceOver and the fact there currently doesn't seem to be any alternative operating systems that boot natively has turned me away from the platform. The Intel Macs rock! I'm running Windows 11 on my 2013 MacBook Air. The fact neither Microsoft nor Apple has talked about running Windows natively on the chips tells me all I need to know. Microsoft doesn't seem to care, and Apple gets more control over the hardware which is what they've always wanted anyway. I'm not sure what the state of Linux on M1 is right now, though there aren't any major distros that run natively to my knowledge. Virtual machines are okay, but there are times you may want to run stuff natively, and for a blind person, VoiceOver and macOS just doesn't cut it anymore unless you can tolerate all the shortcomings. Safari busy busy busy busy busy is absolutely unacceptable in 2021!

If Apple demonstrated they cared more about the VoiceOver user experience, I might be tempted, but it's clear they don't and haven't since at least Mountain Lion. I still think Snow Leopard was the best in terms of VoiceOver stability and future potential. Minor changes once a year isn't nearly enough anymore, especially when bugs continue to pile up. Oh well. It's truly sad NVDA makes VoiceOver look like a rough beta. There's no excuse for a company with the size and resources of Apple to allow this neglect aside from the fact they're choosing to do this. iOS is a priority for them and at this point that's not likely to change.

Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Well what Apple Unleashed with iOS 15. was bugs. More than a NY hotel. I thought 13 was unlucky. Wrong. Siri does not work well, Focus is crap and more. Now they want to charge for using Siri to bring up music? Wow. I wish Android was accessible.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I bought the new M1 MacBook Pro very shortly after yesterday's Unleashed event concluded and I am extremely excited to receive it in a few short weeks. This will be my first M1 Mac, as I'm coming from a 2019 16-inch MacBook Pro with maxed out processor and graphics, and I am very excited to see the significant performance gains the M1 touts over Intel.

Specifically, I purchased the 14-inch MacBook Pro, maxed out the processor to the M1 Max with a 10-core CPU, 32-core GPU, and 16-core neural engine, maxed out the RAM to 64 GB of unified memory, and got 4 TB of internal storage to wrap up the package. At a cool $4,699 (not including tax or the AppleCare coverage I also purchased) it was not cheap, but then again professional-level machines never are. I had been waiting all year for the announcement of new Macs and I doubt I will be disappointed when my machine arrives at the beginning of November.

Submitted by Brad on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I've not used an android device in a long time but as long as you get talkback up and running; everything should work fine.

I'd recommend a google pixal because it's going to be running the latest android version which means it'll be running the latest talkback version as well.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In reply to by Holger Fiallo

Please do your research first before spouting off nonsensical pieces of information with no supporting evidence for said information. As just one of several examples from your post, Apple is only going to "charge for using Siri to bring up music" if one subscribes to the new Apple Music Voice plan, which is a cheaper alternative to the standard Apple Music plans and exclusively (i.e. only) provides access to Apple Music via Siri. It is a convenient method by which individuals can get inexpensive access to Apple Music if they don't need all of the bells and whistles that come with accessing the service using methods other than Siri. But everyone else who has one of the standard Apple Music plans will still be able to use Apple Music through Siri free of charge (i.e. there will not be a specific charge to use Apple Music through Siri beyond the standard monthly charge for Apple Music as a whole) as has always been the case, and will be able to access the service via the other traditional methods as well.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that Apple is only charging for use of Apple Music through Siri if a customer subscribes to a plan that exclusively provides access to Apple Music through Siri.

Supporting evidence for the information I have provided in this post can be found here.

Siri still does not work well and accourding to those who are using iOS 15.1 is still having issues. Why would I pay for it. Regarding the other issues, they are real. I have to deal with them everyday. I thought Unlucky 13 was bad.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In reply to by Holger Fiallo

Those who are only out to find the issues with a product will never be disappointed. Keep that in mind. And re-read my last message, you don't have to pay to use any feature of Siri, nor do you have to pay to access Apple Music through Siri. Rather, you can use Siri free of charge, but if you want to exclusively access Apple Music through Siri and not through any other means, then you can purchase the relevant Apple Music plan. Also keep in mind that in some circumstances, technology is only as good as the person using it. Some issues are certainly the fault of Apple; others lie with the end users. While there are still bugs and issues within iOS and Apple's other operating systems that should be addressed, and that surely will as time moves forward, no product is free of issues, which brings me back to the start of my message: if you go out there only looking to point out the issues in a product, you'll never be disappointed because no product is perfect.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Most exciting thing for me, not mentioned at the event, was the apple cloth. That's the sort of grass routes I want to see apple turning to in the future plus, it's completely accessible... Hang on, "hey Siri, where's my apple cloth?'...

Submitted by Jenna Pepper on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

In reply to by Oliver Kennett

Best hold off until the 2nd gen and get the inevitable Pro Max version with Find My and Face ID built in.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

To Jenna, I hope you realize that the Apple Cloth, or more accurately, the Apple Polishing Cloth, is a piece of material that has no electronics or technology inside, and therefore could not realistically, practically, or in any other medium be upgraded or outfitted to feature Find My or Face ID support as you erroneously claimed in your comment about waiting for the second version of the product. Therefore your comments are baseless and, more over, add nothing to the discussion. This thread, let me remind you, is for discussing the very real and tangible things Apple announced at its event yesterday such as the new MacBook Pros, AirPods, or HomePod Mini. Please keep your comments on topic.

Submitted by Daniel Angus MacDonald on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

I've been beta testing Monterey. I am excited for it's public release.

I'm sure the poster was being a little snarky, and referencing the fact that first-generation products often have unexpected rough spots and hiccups, and that typically, second-generation products have had those issues smoothed out. Please do everyone a favor by refraining from insisting that everyone conform to your ideas of how people should be posting on AppleVis. If the moderators take issue with specific posts, I'm sure they'll let us know.

Thanks,
Shersey

Her post was probably meant as a joke about the seeming ridiculousness of Apple charging $19 for a polishing cloth. I got a good chuckle out of it. It's yet another thing that Apple used to include as a pack-in but now has made a separate purchase, which Apple has been doing for a long time. Posts like this are common on forums.

As for the event itself, I knew I was probably going to be underwhelmed because I don't really care about the new MacBook Pro. I was surprised by the Apple Music stuff though. The new colors for the homepod mini came completely out of left field. I can see these getting refreshed often just like the iPhone cases and Apple Watch bands.

I thought the rumors would be wrong about the third gen AirPods being announced at the event. I thought they would just be dropped in a press release. I would get them if I didn't already have my Pros. Kind of disappointing that you can't buy the new magsafe case for the Pros as a separate purchase though. Let's hope the third gen AirPods don't have the same mic issues that the pros have had.

The new lower priced AM voice plan is interesting, but not something I need. It kind of sounds like a modernization of the iPod Shuffle. Back when that came out, Apple wanted a lower cost option to getting people into the iPod, so they came up with one without a screen that you could just load from a playlist and just play in ordered or shuffle mode. Of course you could do that on a full size or iPod mini or nano, but those were what you bought if you wanted a screen and more music management options. The new Apple Music plan is kind of like that. If all you want is to ask Siri to play music, then this is for you. You can still do this with a normal plan, but you also get access through your device's UI (mostly what I do), along with being able to add songs to your library and create playlists.

Sorry, but I am under no obligation to take your advice. I appreciate you wasting your energy typing it out though. If someone wants to be snarky, they can indicate that in their post; if they don't, then they rightly deserve whatever response they get for it. Thus, I regret nothing.

Submitted by Matthew Whitaker on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

I have to say, great job by Apple on all of these products. I may get the new Mac Book Pro. I have a 2019 version of the 16 inch. Hope there will be a way to run the other OS that shall not be mentioned in this comment, either via bootcamp, even though that's still not working yet with the M1 chip, or some other way.

Submitted by Jenna Pepper on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

In reply to by Brian Giles

It'd be cool to see occasional color refreshes of Homepods. I was hoping for a purple one but no such luck. I'll definitely be waiting for a refresh of the Pros... or just get like some third-party buds. Until then, I'll be making liberal use of their service program for the noise-cancellation and crackling issues. I don't understand the cheaper Apple Music subscription. It's the same service through a worse interface. The only point I can see to it is to make the jump from $0 to $10 be a little easier to stomach.
In regards to the cloth, it's apparently not uncommon for high quality ones to sell for $30, but this is anecdotal. It wouldn't surprise me if it was true at all though. They at least have the decency to include the cloth with the Pro Display XDR and fancy iMac screen with the nanotexture that requires Apple's special cloth or whatever. I suppose it would also be good for pulling sticks out of mud.

Submitted by neosonic2 on Friday, October 22, 2021

In reply to by Matthew Whitaker

As M1 Macs have been around for just about a year now, a bit of research (try Google) will very quickly tell you that Windows is not available on M1 Macs via Boot Camp and will not be for the foreseeable future. Microsoft does not sell a licensed version of Windows 10 on ARM, the operating system variant that is required for the ARM-based M1 processor in the M1 Macs, and thus at this time Apple has chosen to make Boot Camp completely unavailable on these machines.

That being said, Parallels Desktop does offer support for running Windows on an M1 Mac via a virtual machine, but the only supported version is the aforementioned Windows 10 on ARM Insider Preview build that is currently only available as a technical preview for Microsoft developers. VMware Fusion, the other popular virtual machine environment for macOS, does not support Windows guests on an M1 host at all.

@Neosonic2, is such salty tone necessary? Please consider mopping your brow with an Apple Washcloth and calming down.

This is the first Apple hardware that's turned my head in quite a few years. I wouldn't be able to tolerate VO as the daily driver here though.

As I mentioned to another commenter on here, thankfully I am not obligated to take your advice. My comment was spot-on; if people did their research before posting here, they would find the answers they were looking for without having to ask their question only to be told the answers they could have found on the Internet in 5 seconds.

Anyways, if you are unable to use VoiceOver on macOS daily then perhaps don't purchase the newly-released machines, or wait until some form of Windows has been made available (most likely via virtual machine). Alternatively, as I plan to do when my new M1 MacBook Pro arrives in a few weeks, you could purchase a Windows laptop for the tasks you absolutely need to perform on Windows, supplementing the work you can do on your Mac. Linux and its screen reader are also available for use on macOS via a virtual machine as well.