Apple unveiled a number of innovations at its latest virtual product launch, including an iPad Pro incorporating 5G and an AirTag tracking tile which will attach to non-Apple products.

CEO Tim Cook said “super-fast 5G” will deliver download speeds on the iPad Pro of up to 3.5Gb/s in “ideal conditions”. He added the device is also compatible with mmWave frequencies in the US, on which data rates can reach 4Gb/s.

Other features of the new iPad Pro include a liquid retina display powered by 10,000 tiny LEDs, Thunderbolt data transfer connectivity, a wireless keyboard and an ultra-wide camera employing software to automatically adjust its angle.

Is 5G a selling point?
Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said 5G has come to the iPad “much earlier than I expected.” However, she does not see the addition as a game changer at the current time, for several reasons.

Kitagawa believes Wi-Fi is a sufficient connection for most iPad use cases. “For the user side I have a big question…how many people [will] really get the 5G version”? Many people will not want to pay for the mobile data needed to support the new iPad Pro’s capabilities such as cloud-based gaming, she noted adding even if they do, they may lack access to a compatible network.

The analyst also queried how Apple will position the latest iPad Pro versus the MacBook Air going forward, now that both devices use Apple’s M1 system-on-a-chip (SoC), which includes a super-fast eight-core CPU.

She was slightly surprised Apple did not have any MacBook-related announcements at the event.

Other key announcements
Apple also showed off its highly-anticipated AirTag, a tracking tile widely expected to lock more users into its ecosystem. The company said any iPhone with a U1 chip will support AirTag’s “precision finding” using the phone’s camera, accelerometer, and gyroscope.

The main smartphone move was cosmetic, involving the addition of a purple colour option for the iPhone 12. The vendor is clearly anticipating strong demand for vibrant hues as the world comes out of quarantine, as demonstrated by the rainbow of selections it is offering for its smartphones and iMac PCs.

Updated versions of the PCs were also unveiled, with the vendor stating use of its M1 chip left enough space to relocate internal fans into the monitor, so leaving nothing below the desk.

PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore explained the move highlighted the “fruits of Apple silicon” as the vendor employs its “SoC architecture across its portfolio”.

“The M1 is transforming its products, form factors and capabilities far beyond what users can do today.”

Apple more tightly integrated the latest iMac with its iPhone, with calls and SMS shown on the PC, and options to copy content from the smartphone to the computer.

Fresh fronts
The vendor’s other announcements were reminders Apple is pushing into new lines of business.

Cook started the event by describing the Apple Credit Card as probably “the most successful credit card launch ever”. He said the company planned to make it easier for couples to build their individual credit scores by letting each attach their histories to the card.

An Apple podcast app is also in the works, offering a subscription feature for content generators.

The iPhone will also be used to colour balance a new Apple TV 4K set-top box, a feature Pescatore believes “will not get a lot of airtime but should” because while consumers “are buying state-of-the-art TVs, they’re likely not calibrated”.

What is clearly calibrated is Apple’s increasingly sophisticated approach to its product release cycle and launch events. Most analysts agree the virtual product launch, with its high production value and vast audience reach, will outlive the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.