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A quick overview of Apple’s device categories

With all the buzz after the Apple event, a lot of people want to get in on the Apple action but don’t know where to start. That’s exactly what we want to give you – an overview of Apple’s device categories. It’s time to become an insider.

We’ll readily admit – we’ve bashed Apple on quite a few occasions over the years. And for good reason. But we’ll also be the first to admit that Apple is the undisputed king in several aspects of tech which it has traditionally been good at. It’s unfortunate, but perhaps justified, that the only two things people know about Apple is that they make great products and that said products are almost always unaffordable. Sure, it’s a big company, and it had some iconic Jobs fellow (don’t flay us, fanboys), and their laptops are really thin and shiny and futuristic, but if they’re unaffordable why should most people bother? Nonchalance seems like a perfectly reasonable attitude to have, which is pretty much what the overarching sentiment in the non-fanboy world is.

Why is it unfortunate then? Well, as lovers of technology, it becomes kind of hypocritical to close our eyes and ears to perspectives that we pre-judge as unworthwhile. The scientific temper directs us to be impartial in our arguments before being unequivocal in our judgement. And how, indeed, can we do that, if our only argument against Apple is the lightness of our wallets?
In all fairness, Apple is an impressive company, and one that operates differently from most. There’s a design-focus in its products that is unparalleled in the industry; there’s an interest not just in features but in how those features will be used, a truly holistic design sense – embedded deep within the company values. It’s really this that the Apple customer (often more than willingly) pays for.

With those kind of ethos in place, what ends up happening is that Apple, almost always takes the pole position in technological innovation. It is willing to go smaller, brighter, sharper, faster than a lot of other companies. And being the juggernaut that it is, often entire industry trends are started and propelled by Apple (for better or for worse).

Apple’s attention to detail is stuff of legend. There’s an enthusiasm to go overboard for marginal improvements. The late Steve Jobs famously commented, “when you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back.” This man’s direction has been largely responsible for the design direction and the penchant for beauty that Apple is known for.

Yeah, we get it. Most of us don’t need beauty, we need a functional machine that doesn’t bankrupt us. But maybe having an open mind isn’t so bad – in fact, maybe it’s important. And that’s what this article is about.

If you’re a loyal customer, order another latte from that place we know you’re sitting at, and reveal a few minute details in your own product that you quite possibly didn’t know about. But if you are an Apple Outsider this article will be the perfect window into devices we know you’ve been (perhaps secretly) curious about.

Take for instance MacBooks. They have pretty much the best build quality you can find in an ultraportable laptop, the Mac Pro has excellent acoustics and still can pack a decent punch in rendering video despite being woefully, nay almost comically outdated in terms of specs. Or iPhones that just work (forgive us for the cliché).

Apple has a finger in pretty much every major technological pie, from smart watches to TV streaming boxes. With this article, we aim to give you a broad overview into those very form factors and verticals in which Apple operates. A quick 101 of sorts to ease you into the Appley Appleness.

Laptops

Apple currently offers two lines of laptops – The Macbook and the Macbook Pro. The MacBook (or the hipster machine, if you will) is an ultraportable machine that sacrifices a lot of performance and ports (it literally just has one USB-C port with Thunderbolt 3) to maintain a very low footprint with a 12-inch screen. It’s completely fanless, thanks to its core m3/ i5 Y series processors and comes in four colours. It’s primarily aimed at the people who need a stylish device to tote around and have only light tasks such as web browsing and productivity tasks such as word processing. The MacBook Pro, while not quite so svelte, is still thin and light enough to put many Windows machines to shame. It comes in both 13 and 15-inch variants, with the latter having discrete GPUs while the former has to contend with Iris Pro graphics (which is again, better than just onboard Intel HD graphics). Processor choices usually are dual core i5s and i7s on the 13 inch while the 15-inch users can upgrade to a quad core. It’s aimed at the mobile working professional, who has slightly more demanding tasks and especially at artists and content creators. MacBook Pros from 2016 (and later) also come with a ‘Touchbar’ – a long OLED strip placed where the FN keys normally would be. It’s an interactive touchscreen that changes depending on which ever application you are running at the time. Both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro are characterised by excellent high-resolution screens and even better build quality with the full aluminium unibody chassis. They also have blazing fast SSDs, great speakers, the absolute best trackpad in the market and decent battery life going for them, making them very popular devices. There is also the aging MacBook Air, which spearheaded the whole ultraportable moment. It’s a dying line though, with the MacBook Pros going down in size and price (a little at least). Additionally, Apple has officially announced there won’t be any more updates on the Air line.

Apple
Oooh shiny!

What about Windows laptops? While they seem to have the MacBooks beat at least on the spec sheet, you really can’t compare the two. Apple’s laptops are in a different category altogether and comparing them very mechanically just isn’t going to be fair. As they say, Apples and Oranges yada yada, you know the drill.

Mobile Devices

And in the mobile corner, the most popular Apple device – The iPhone. Right now, we are all the way upto iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, with a the new iPhone X (not ex, ten) changing up things a bit with its edge to edge display and new features. The design was beginning to stagnate a bit but the X has indeed brought something new. Hopefully it’s still one of the best-built phones out there.

iPhone 7
This is the third year we are seeing the same design. iPhone 8/X better be good!

We’re not sure if the 12.9 inch iPad Pro really counts as a mobile device but we’ll throw it in here anyway. With the advent of 5+ inch smartphone screens being the norm rather than the exception, tablet sales have declined steadily. Added to the fact that there is pretty much no competition from the Android side, everyone who does want to get a tablet ends up getting an iPad. Think about it – how many people you know own a tablet and how many of those are iPads? Apple has three lines of iPads currently – The iPad Pro, the iPad and the iPad Mini, in a wide range of screen sizes from 7 inches to 12.9. There are differences both significant and nuanced between all the models so we’ll save the discussion for later.

Desktops

Apple’s ticket to fame – the Macintosh. From 1984, millions of people have been swearing by them for work and art alike and for good reason. The Mac has been evolving steadily through the years and now, it’s available in 4 main variants – The Mac Pro, the iMac, the iMac Pro and the Mac Mini. The Mac Mini is the cheapest of the bunch and it doesn’t take too much thinking to figure out why. Meant for people who are tied into the Apple ecosystem but can’t afford the bigger, meaner machines, the Mac Mini is a solid, small about 8inch square-cuboid that packs decidedly unimpressive specs under the hood. Talking about looking good, the Mac Pro definitely doesn’t. The industrial, seamless design is fine and all but once you start looking at it like a trashcan, the image is burnt into your head indelibly. This is one of the most expensive computers you can buy today – with specs that are years out of date. While both the Mac Pro and the Mac Mini are in dire need of upgrades, there are two spanking new iMacs on the block. Both of them are all-in-ones, meaning the computer is integrated into the display. The iMac Pro comes out this December (perhaps packing an 18 core Xeon and Vega graphics!) so get those kidneys ready.

Apple HomePod
Looks suspiciously a lot like a speaker we reviewed recently

Entertainment and Misc.

Read the above subhead as ‘Literally Everything Else’. We weren’t kidding when we told you Apple has lots of fingers in lots of pies. Apart from the main tech trifecta outlined above, Apple also offers a sinfully expensive but pretty darn good smartwatch under the Apple Watch series; music players that were once literally ubiquitous but now rather difficult to spot; a recent and surprising foray into home audio with the HomePod speakers and streaming TV boxes in the form of Apple TV and a pretty amazing music streaming service in Apple Music. And now that Apple owns Beats, it makes some wireless headphones that are generally too overpriced. Phew! Honestly, we need to stop emphasising this. It’s Apple. Everything they make is bound to have a few extra zeros in its price tag.

Finally, coming to accessories for its products, you have a company with a huge product catalogue and a sizable software list to go along with it. Truly, one of the tech giants of our time and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.


This article was first published in the August 2017 issue of Fast Track with Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.

Prithvi Sudhan

Prithvi Sudhan

Aabir Abubaker