Life in COVID-19 lockdown has made many of us rely on our home computers. Now Apple is hoping some of us are ready for an upgrade.

At its first product launch event of 2021, dubbed “Spring Loaded,” Apple unveiled a cornucopia of new gear, including an upgrade to its pricey iPad Pro tablet and a redesigned (and more expensive) iMac desktop. There’s also a new iPhone accessory called the AirTag to help you find lost stuff and an overhaul of the AppleTV streaming box’s remote control.

Like all of last year’s Apple product events, this one was prerecorded and streamed from the company’s website, rather than a theater full of journalists with pesky questions.

The $800 and up iPad Pro includes some changes that respond directly to the challenges of pandemic life. A new ultrawide camera – still located along the top of the device when held in vertical orientation – has the ability to zoom and pan to follow you as you move around during video calls. This function, called Center Stage, is playing catch up with similar capabilities Facebook’s Portal and Amazon’s Echo Show.

The new iPad Pro is also available in a version that supports faster 5G cellular data networks, which are great when they’re available – but that’s still a work in progress across most of the U.S.

The iPad Pro line, last refreshed a year ago with a new $300 keyboard case, is the fastest and largest of Apple’s tablet family, available in full-screen 11- and 12.9-inch versions. Apple has long touted the Pro as being as powerful as a laptop, and the 2021 edition now contains the same Apple-designed M1 processor as Apple’s latest Mac computers. Whether the faster chip can help the iPad reach laptop-replacement status is still an open question.


The largest model of the iPad Pro also contains a new kind of screen technology called mini-LED that promises better contrast and detail. You might have to step outside to notice the difference – the biggest impact is that the screen can get much brighter.

iPads have had a big run during the pandemic. Working and attending school from home helped drive year-over-year sales growth of more than 40 percent in recent quarters, according to analysts at Wedbush Securities. They also estimate about 40 percent of iPad owners have upgraded in the past year, suggesting there could be some pent-up demand left.

iPad Pro orders start April 30 and will be available in the second half of May. But you don’t need the most-expensive iPad for Netflix streaming, Zoom calls or doing schoolwork. Unfortunately, Apple didn’t upgrade its standard, Air and and mini iPads, but they’re still priced $330 and up.

Another update for at-home work is a complete overhaul to Apple’s iMac desktop computer. Now significantly thinner, it also uses its Apple-designed M1 chips for processing. Its wireless keyboard contains a fingerprint reader, long missing from Apple’s desktop computer.

The great advantage of an iMac for working or attending school from home is you can use one sitting upright in a chair and get absorbed in its screen, which now measures 24 inches. Alas, the new screen doesn’t support touch like competing desktops running Microsoft’s Windows 10, which give you the option to work standing up or even with a stylus.

The new iMacs will also cost you more: The starting price jumped from $1,100 (for the old 21-inch model) to $1,300.

They’re available in a rainbow of seven colors, a nod to the early days of candy-colored iMacs first introduced by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. iMac orders start on April 30 and will ship in the second half of May.

Tuesday’s event also brought long-awaited debut of an Apple system for finding lost items, called AirTags. Like a similar Bluetooth-tracking device called Tile, AirTags are $29 wireless doodads you attach to your keys or luggage that communicate with nearby iPhones so you can locate them with Apple’s Find My app.

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