Despite a global semiconductor shortage and supply-chain bottlenecks that have slowed the production of iPhones, Apple this week announced several new products. Those include a redesigned MacBook Pro laptop, new AirPod wireless headphones and even a $19 "polishing cloth" that's generating buzz on social media.
Apple announced two new processors for the redesigned MacBook Pro, the M1 Pro and M1 Max, updated versions of the company's custom M1 system-on-a-chip processor released late last year. Although Apple did not release specs, according to some tests the revamped chips are more powerful and less power-hungry than those in comparable PCs. That should help the new laptop perform demanding tasks like rendering video and crunching AI data.
This year's MacBook Pro is redesigned and comes with MagSafe magnetic charging, a diverse array of connection ports, a 120Hz True-Tone screen and a better keyboard. The new front-facing camera will support 1080p HD FaceTime calls, but not Face ID.
Of course, with great power usually comes a great sticker price. The MacBook Pro starts at $1,499 for the 14-inch model, while the 16-inch model starts at a hefty $2,499.
Apple also announced a new HomePod with better Siri integration and new colors, as well as redesign of its AirPod wireless headphones ($179) that includes support for "spacial audio," a high-resolution audio format. The new hardware is coupled with software updates, including MacOS Monterey and refinements to Apple Music.
But of all the new gear, some tech analysts think the most important product Apple announced this week was a $19 polishing cloth. The soft, nonabrasive cloth square is embossed with the Apple logo and compatible with most products, including Android devices. An API for the small swath of fabric has not yet been announced.
The iPhone maker is in the midst of its biggest product release cycle in a decade because of the company's recent shift from Intel to in-house chips, equity analyst Dan Ives told CBS MoneyWatch. Impressively, it's managed to sustain that momentum at a time of unprecedented strain on global supply chains that are slowing shipments from China, where most iPhones are manufactured. According to Nikkei Asia, Apple is expecting to ship 10 million fewer iPhone 13 units this fall.
Apple's M1 chip "allowed them to take a hit with the iPhone 13 while side-stepping the global shortage of microprocessors that slowed production of everything from new phones to last year's processor.," Ives said. The iPhone 13, announced last month, is in short supply this year because camera components are , and the features a flashier display but ships with
"Thehave been a thorn in the iPhone product cycle, but designing silicon in-house keeps the Mac product train rolling forward," Ives said.
Apple analyst Rene Ritche agrees that the company's investment in custom processors paid off. "Designing their own silicon has let Apple avoid the issues plaguing the rest of the industry — legacy [supply chain] nodes," he said in an interview conducted on Twitter. "In other words, there's no shortage of the new and expensive, only of the old and cheap."
The company's massive scale — Apple sold more than 200 million iPhones last year — also helped it stay competitive, Ritchie said. "No one sells as many premium devices as Apple, so it's really something only Apple can afford to do," Ritchie tweeted. "And Apple buys [components] early and in bulk to fund new and expensive products."
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