And with that, another year is drawing to a close. Just like 2020 before it, 2021 has been unpredictable to say the least. In fact, one of the only certainties of the year these days is that Apple will release a veritable smorgasbord of new stuff – and in that regard, at least, 2021 was the same as any other year.
We got new Macs. We got new iPads. We got new iPhones. We got new Apple Watches. We could go on (and will, below). And while it's harder than ever to be surprised by what Cupertino has in store for us (thanks, leaks), there were a few unexpected treats in 2021. Here's our pick of what came along this year.
This year, Apple saw fit to give some design love to some of its most neglected products, and perhaps top of that list was the iMac. Languishing away with an almost decade-old design, it seemed like the all-in-one had been forgotten. But then came the 2021 iMac.
With a brand new form factor, bigger screen and, most importantly, colour, we called the new iMac a return to Apple's fun, retro best. Available in seven hues, the new iMac is the most colourful since the 1998 G3, and we're loving the shift away from silvery-grey. Oh, and the inside is great too, thanks to the super-powerful M1 chip and extremely fast external storage.
Another surprise came in the form of Apple's most recent announcement, the 2021 MacBook Pro. Now, we knew a new MacBook Pro was imminent – but we didn't know it'd come with a notch. Yep, the controversial design touch was the biggest talking point about the device, but for our money, it doesn't detract from the stunning performance.
It's hard to understate what a game-changer the new 2021 MacBook Pro is for professional creatives – it's already taken the top spot in our round-up of the best laptops for graphic designers, and those M1 Pro and M1 Max chips are faster than anything we've ever seen. Oh, and that ProMotion display is simply beautiful – notch or no notch.
Along with the iMac, Apple also introduced a game-changing new generation of iPads. While the 2021 iPad Pro looks pretty much the same as last year's on the outside (except for the 12.9-inch model's super-bright new LED display), it's what on the inside that counts here. None of us were expecting the M1 chip to make its way to the iPad, but Apple surprised us with a seriously significant upgrade to the specs of its top-end tablet.
And another of Apple's oft-ignored products was given a long-overdue update this year. The iPad mini has finally been given the all-screen design treatment, joining its bigger siblings, the Air and Pro, with Apple Pencil 2 support and a flat-edged design. We're huge fans of the diminutive device and delighted to see it finally look like it belongs in 2021.
If we're honest, this wasn't the most exciting year for iPhone fans. The iPhone 13 line up offered a fairly incremental upgrade over the 12. We got a slightly better camera, slightly bigger battery, slightly smaller notch – and that's about it. If rumours are to be believed, the iPhone 14 will make up for these shortcomings with some seriously impressive new specs and design features.
That said, the top-end iPhone 13 did offer some notable improvements, including the arrival (finally) of ProMotion – Apple's super smooth 120hz refresh rate display – to the iPhone. And the 13 Pro camera is seriously impressive. Until, that is, you read about the rumoured iPhone 14 Pro camera.
While we said before that leaks make it hard to be taken by surprise, sometimes every Apple leaker gets it dead wrong – and that was the case with the Apple Watch Series 7. Constant rumours of a new, flat-edged design turned out to be way off the mark, and the biggest surprise was that the 7 ended up looking almost identical to the 6.
Almost identical, because the Series 7 features a wildly improved display. Extending to the very edges of the device, it can show much more information, and finally allows for a (slightly cramped) keyboard – a first for the Apple Watch. We're just waiting to find out if that flat design will finally materialise with the Apple Watch Series 8.
It wasn't just the flagship products that Apple announced in 2021. We were treated to all manner of accessories and extras. Perhaps most notable was the third generation AirPods, which did away with the original design in favour of an AirPods Pro-inspired in-ear look. And if rumours are to be believed, the AirPods Pro 2 could take things even further by getting rid of the stem entirely.
And we finally got AirTags, Apple's much-rumoured tracking device. While impressive, these did raise a few privacy concerns – to the point where Apple was forced to push out some reassuring software updates.
From the Apple Car to the company's VR headset, there are a few persistent rumours hinting at what could be coming next from Apple. Whether or not these will become a reality in 2022 remains to be seen – but we have a feeling we might just be in for some new iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, and maybe a watch or two. Don't fancy waiting to find out? Check out our roundup of the best Apple deals.
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