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This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Watch Apple's 'Spring Loaded' reveal event with CNET live

Spring has well and truly sprung. The Apple Store is down in advance of the company’s “Spring Loaded” event, Apple’s first big launch of 2021, which kicks off at 10 a.m. PT (1 p.m. ET) today. We’re predicting new iPads and iMacs, and the tech giant is expected to offer minor hardware updates for iPads and major software upgrades for iPads and iPhones. Any new iMac computers could be powered by some variant of Apple’s new in-house M1 chips. And if we’re lucky, we might even see the long-rumored AirTags tracking accessories.

CNET’s preshow for the “Spring Loaded” event starts at 9:30 a.m. PT. Join us here to hash over the expectations and the rumors.

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Apple wants to make sure you’re loaded up for the spring.


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Apple’s 10 a.m. PT event will be streamed through the company’s website as part of its all-digital strategy amid the pandemic. The virtual announcement presentations have allowed Apple to stick to its schedule of holding events in the spring, summer and fall. In 2020, as the pandemic took hold, Apple made its Worldwide Developers Conference online-only, with slickly edited videos adding to the typical stage presentation format for its June event. This year’s WWDC, scheduled to start June 7, will also be online-only.

Today’s announcements are rumored to focus on the iPad’s speed and its screen. Apple’s expected to upgrade the chips powering its iPads and to introduce a new screen technology called mini-LED, which display makers say offers improved power efficiency and better brightness. Apple is rumored to be transitioning its MacBook laptops and iMac desktops to the technology sometime later as well. Modern iPhones use OLED screens, which are considered higher quality but typically cost more money to make.

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What we expect from Apple’s 2021 Spring Loaded event



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Alongside the iPads, Apple’s expected to announce its plans to deliver iOS 14.5, a major software update that offers new emoji, ways to unlock a phone with your Apple Watch instead of your face, and big privacy changes. The new software, which will be made available as a free download, will require apps to ask permission in order to use tracking technology that collect information about users across various apps and websites. 

Facebook in particular criticized Apple’s new initiative, called App Tracking Transparency, saying it’ll increase advertising costs. To make its case, Facebook took out ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post to argue against the move. Apple’s said it plans to release iOS 14.5 in the coming weeks.

Read more: The iPad is great for art, games and movies. Apple wants it to be more

The tech giant may also offer entirely new products, rumored to be called AirTags. The devices are little trackers you can attach to backpacks, purses, toys or whatever else, so you can locate them using the iPhone’s “Find My” app. Samsung beat Apple to market with its $40 SmartTag devices, announced in January. Other companies make similar devices too, including Tile and TrackR.

When

Apple’s online-only event will be held on April 20 at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET, 6 p.m. BST and April 21 at 3 a.m. AEST (Sorry, Australia).

Where

You’ll be able to stream Apple’s event straight from the company’s website.

What we can expect

Apple’s digital events are fast paced and slickly produced. And there are at least one or two jokes thrown in to keep you entertained.

Stay up-to-date on the latest news, reviews and advice on iPhones, iPads, Macs, services and software.

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Work at a Google campus? Better be vaccinated.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday told employees the company will require vaccinations for employees working on the company’s campuses, a move that comes as the highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus spreads across the world. The policy will begin in the US and expand to other regions over the next few months.

Pichai also delayed the company’s mandatory return to office to Oct. 18, pushing back the date from an earlier goal of September. 

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“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai wrote in an email to employees. “I know that many of you continue to deal with very challenging circumstances related to the pandemic.”

Pichai said the policy will be implemented according to local conditions, and he would share guidance and exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated due to medical or other protected reasons. 

The announcement comes as regions around the world have seen coronavirus cases surge due to the delta variant. In California, Google’s home state, some counties have mandated masks again for people gathering indoors. 

Google isn’t alone in re-evaluating its return-to-work protocols because of the latest wave of the pandemic. Apple said last week that it would also postpone its date for returning to the office by a month. More than half of Apple’s stores will require customers and employees to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, starting on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg

Facebook also said on Wednesday that it would require workers on its US campuses be vaccinated. Netflix will require vaccinations for casts of its US productions, Deadline reported. Twitter said it’s closing the company’s opened offices in New York and San Francisco and pausing future office re-openings. The company said that the office closures are temporary but they don’t have a new timeline for reopening. “We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement. 

Uber on Thursday also pushed its global return to office date back to Oct. 25, a delay from its original goal of September. In an internal note to employees, which an Uber representative shared with CNET, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi added that “local circumstances will continue to dictate when it makes sense to bring employees back in a given city,” and that some offices will remain open for employees to come into voluntarily, if local health guidelines allow. Uber will also require employees be fully vaccinated to come into the office, beginning in the US before expanding to other countries. In addition, all Uber employees around the world must now wear masks if they’re in the office. 

Google’s return-to-office policies have caused major tension among the tech giant’s employees, who have complained the rules are applied unevenly. Earlier this month, CNET reported that Urs Hölzle, one of Google’s most senior and longest tenured executives, told employees he’d be working remotely from New Zealand. The announcement rankled lower-level workers who called the relocation “hypocritical” because they said he had in the past been unsupportive or remote work.

CNET’s Queenie Wong and Abrar Al-Heeti contributed to this report. 

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Amazon’s second-quarter sales missed analysts’ projections.

Angela Lang/CNET

Amazon’s revenue continued to climb this year in the second quarter, but not quite at the rate analysts expected. The reason might be that shoppers are finally getting out of the house.

The e-commerce and tech powerhouse said Thursday that net sales in the April-June quarter climbed to $113.1 billion, up 27% from $88.9 billion in the same period last year. That missed forecasts of roughly $115 billion in sales from analysts but landed comfortably within the range of $110 billion to $116 billion, which Amazon predicted for its second quarter in April. Still, earnings per share rose to $15.12 per share, up 46.8% from $10.30 a year earlier. That beat forecasts of $12.22 in earnings per share, according to a Yahoo Finance survey of analysts.

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As economies begin opening up and COVID restrictions taper, people may be focused on activities other than shopping and may also be spreading their dollars around as they experience “additional mobility,” said Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s chief financial officer. In the final quarter of 2020, Amazon posted revenues of more than $100 billion for the first time. And Thursday’s results follow booming sales in the first quarter of 2021, when retailers normally expect to see a slump in sales after the holidays.

In April, Amazon said it would move its annual Prime Day shopping holiday to the second quarter, altering the event’s usual timing of July. Prime Day was eventually scheduled for June 21-22, the earliest it’s been held. Amazon said Thursday the event was most successful for its third party sellers, who use the company’s marketplace to sell their wares, often aided by the Fulfilled by Amazon program that lets companies store goods at Amazon’s warehouses and utilize its delivery service and participate in the Prime program (sellers can also use other fulfillment companies to participate in Prime). Amazon’s revenues grew more from the services vendors pay the company for than its own retail sales.

Advertising revenues also grew substantially, with Olsavsky saying sellers were bidding higher for advertising slots and customers were clicking on ads more. The service allows smaller businesses to place their products higher in search results when customers search for keywords related to their products, including the name of a larger competitor. Additionally, Amazon’s major profit generator, Amazon Web Services, remained strong by bringing in $14.8 billion in revenue and accounting for more than half of Amazon’s operating income.

In the same quarter last year, Amazon blasted past analysts’ predictions, posting record profits even after telling investors it would spend billions to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Amazon also dealt with major obstacles in its logistics chain that led to delivery delays, and it faced high turnover in warehouses, where some workers staged walkouts in protest of Amazon’s handling of safety.

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Airbnb introduced a new speed testing feature on Thursday, allowing anyone who lists their home with the short-term rental service to share their Wi-Fi speeds. Owners can do so by following instructions in the Airbnb app to run a few quick speed tests at their properties — from there, customers can compare the results as they’re browsing for a place to book.

“As the growing flexibility to work and live from anywhere continues, being able to determine a listing’s Wi-Fi speed before booking is a must-have for digital nomads, remote workers, roadschoolers, traveling families, gamers, and creatives alike,” the company’s announcement reads. “Guests want peace of mind that where they’re staying can support their connected needs.”

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The owners of Airbnb rentals will be able to run Wi-Fi speed tests and share those speeds in their listings directly from the Airbnb app.

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Airbnb listings already allow owners to cite their property’s Wi-Fi speed, but the new, built-in speed test — powered by M-Lab, the group behind one of CNET’s top speed testing picks — will add an extra layer of certification for those claims. In addition to offering speed-needy renters some reassurance, those speed test results will also be shared with M-Lab’s publicly available, open-source database of internet performance metrics.

Airbnb is rolling out its new speed testing feature across the US, and expects to expand globally in the coming weeks.

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