So that Apple presentation, huh? If you missed it you can catch up on the official website, but the gist of it is lots of new hardware announcements, pricing, and release date information. There was also some stuff about Apple TV, and Tim Cook hugged One Republic.
But enough about that. Let’s talk about all the stuff Apple covered during today’s event.
First up was the Apple Watch, which (let’s face it) kind of needs some major things to change for it to have a fighting chance at this point. Well, with the soon-to-be-released Watch OS 2 on the horizon, I’m cautiously optimistic that Apple’s wearable will sticking around for a while. I’ve mentioned how important third-party app development is and how significant Watch OS 2 will be in the past, but knowing that the new operating system is releasing next week on September 16 has re-invigorated me a bit.
It was also announced that Facebook Messenger is coming to the Apple Watch, if you’re into that sort of thing. But there are also a lot of interesting new functions that will be available for healthcare professionals and patients. Functions like doctors being able to view patient info on their Apple Watch (only if they’re wearing it, of course), patients being able to send health data to their doctors and receive replies, and even more finely tuned sensor readings that can differentiate between the heartbeat of a pregnant woman and the heartbeat of her baby.
On the hardware end of things, Apple also announced two new finishes for the Sport line - Gold and Rose Gold - which will be available for the same prices as the regular Sport Apple Watches. A pretty wide selection of new “Fall” bands are also being released, and all these new finishes and straps start shipping today.
Then there’s the iPad Pro. Many have joked about it being Apple’s version of the Surface Pro - including myself - but it’s certainly an interesting tablet. It’s undeniably bigger than any other iOS device, with a 12.9” display that’s as wide as the iPad Air’s display is tall, four different speakers that adjust their frequencies depending on how you’re holding the device, a full-size software keyboard, and a much faster processor. The new A9X chip is said to be almost twice as fast (1.8 times) as the A8X found in the iPad Air. It’s also supposedly faster than most of the portable PCs that have come out in recent months.
Other specs include 10 hours of battery life (seems a bit low to me), a width that’s almost as thin as the iPad Air (6.9mm for the Pro vs. 6.1 for the Air), a weight of 1.57 lbs., and a couple of new accessories: the Smart Keyboard and the (ugh) Apple Pencil.
The Smart Keyboard is, on its surface, pretty much what we’ve already seen from third-party manufacturers with iPad keyboard covers. It’s also where the bulk of the Surface Pro comparisons started coming from. Still, it’s a nice enough idea that’s a bit overpriced (more on that later), and it’s great to see Apple finally embracing keyboard covers for their tablet.
The Apple Pencil, on the other hand, is a very poorly-named stylus made specifically for the iPad Pro. It’s stuffed full of all sorts of sensors that can detect position, pressure, and even tilt to a pretty fine degree, and it can be used in conjunction with multitouch so you can draw with one hand and adjust things/use other app features with the other. It also can be recharged via a lightning connector that plugs right into the iPad Pro. And joke as I might about the terrible name, it does actually seem pretty impressive. It’s nothing I’d ever use since I’m not an illustrator, but I could see it being a pretty big deal to those who are.
I know there are some who take exception to Apple making a stylus because it goes against everything Steve Jobs once believed in, but I don’t agree. The whole point of the iPhone, iPad, etc, was so that you wouldn’t need a stylus, but the Apple Pencil isn’t a necessity. I’d call it a really nice tool, if anything. You can still use the iPad Pro just fine without it, and it arguably wouldn’t make a bit of difference to the average user. Whether or not it’s the best stylus ever remains to be seen, of course.
The downside is the price. Not so much for the iPad Pro, which is a comparably reasonable $799 for the 32GB model, $949 for 128GB (not much more than an iPad Air, really), and $1079 for the 128GB model with cellular functions. The Smart Keyboard seems a bit much, though, coming in at $169. Finally, the Apple Pencil is a reasonable (for a sensor-stuffed stylus) $99.
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus
Finally we have the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. We all pretty much new they were coming. Both phones use a new A9 chip (not to be confused with the iPad Pro’s A9X chip) that makes them even faster than previous iPhones, because of course it does. They also feature faster LTE, faster wifi, and a faster TouchID sensor.
Both new models will also use what Apple is calling “3D Touch” (I know, I hate it, too), which brings a little more functionality to the touch interface by measuring the pressure of your taps. It does different things for different apps but the general idea is that a light press will pull up previews, quick menus, and other shortcuts while a hard press will completely open the app/message/whatever. I have to admit it looks like it could be useful. Being able to preview emails without having to open them, then exit and mark them as read if I want to get to them later is more than enough to make me happy. Being able to pull up shortcuts for common app uses without actually having to open said app also seems quite nice. And I imagine we’ll see some creative stuff from third-party developers as well.
Then there’s the camera, which was a big focus of the announcement. This time around the new iPhones will feature a 12MP iSight camera with a faster and more accurate auto-focus, along with other photo improvements like image quality and low-light stuff. The retina display has also been tweaked so that it can function almost like the True Tone flash for the back camera, only it works for the front-facing camera. So better selfies, I guess?
Video quality has also improved, allowing users to take 4K videos with a much-touted 8 million pixels per frame. On a related note, you might want to consider a 128GB model if you expect to take a lot of video. And even if you don’t, with the new Live Photos feature all of your photos can be videos, too! Because Apple loves giving people at least one feature that kind of makes no sense, now it’s possible to have the pictures you take book-ended by 1.5 seconds of video. The images are still high quality photos, but you can tap on them to watch them move now - as many have already pointed out, much like the pictures in the Harry Potter universe.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of news regarding the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus is the price. Both iPhones will sell for the same price their respective older selves currently sell for - in other words you can get a 6S for the same price as a 6, and a 6S Plus for the same price as a 6 Plus. That translates to $199 for 32GB, $299 for 64GB, and $399 for 128GB for the 6S, or $299 for 32GB, $399 for 64GB, and $499 for 128GB for the 6S Plus. Preorders open up on September 12, and both will release on September 25.