As you’re probably well aware by now, yesterday was Apple’s big event at which the company announced some fairly significant updates, at what proved yet again to be a highly-anticipated event at least in the tech press.
While there were almost no surprises thanks to rumours and leaks over the last few months, there was enough to hold the interest for the 2-hour duration while Jony Ive videos played and developers showed off their latest demos on the new hardware. But is Apple still innovating or did the announcements fall flat?
If you’re anything like me, the annual iPhone event is a reason to stay up late to see what all the fuss is about, but many consumers probably don’t care and may not realise there even was an event.
Apple chose the 7000-seater Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to host its annual show, using the additional capacity for thousands of Apple employees. This time around with so many updates to cover, the usual by-the-numbers update videos and self-congratulatory iPhone sales statistics were dispensed with…
Tim Cook and co dove straight into the Apple Watch. So what was new? A selection of new casings (gold and rose gold aluminium models) as well as a plethora of new band colours. Apple is also partnering with watch company Hermes to create a special selection of Apple Watch designs with unique (software) faces and attractive leather straps.
Aside from the updated designs, a brief rundown on Watch OS 2 revealed some of the improvements coming to the smartwatch when the OS is officially released next week. It was also noted that there are now more than 10,000 apps available for Apple Watch.
Next up was the much rumoured 12.9-inch iPad Pro complete with a pressure-sensitive stylus (an optional accessory), detachable keyboard cover that uses a new magnetic connector for power and data, and the latest “A9x” custom CPU. Audio should also be much improved thanks to four speakers that automatically adjust the balance based on device orientation and tilt.
Apple says the A9x provides desktop-class performance, and while that can’t be validated yet, the apps demonstrated by Adobe and even Microsoft (!) suggest that the enterprise-focused iPad Pro could be attractive for creative professionals, or anyone that needs a keyboard to be their most productive.
Scanning the various Internet forums after the event, the reaction to the Pro model seemed quite positive especially regarding the stylus (Apple actually calls it the Apple Pencil). While the iPad Pro is a very welcome addition to the iPad lineup, the Air skipped the updates this time around, though a new iPad Mini 4 with A8x CPU (identical to that in the Air 2) is available immediately.
Perhaps the most significant announcement was the long-awaited update to the company’s diminutive set-top streamer, the Apple TV. Apple obviously believes that apps on the big screen are the future of television, combined with a touch-sensitive and Siri-enabled remote to navigate and find content (complete with unified search across apps like Hulu, iTunes, and Netflix).
The hardware itself is slightly taller than the current Apple TV and will come with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage when it’s released next month. Siri + touch is obviously what Steve Jobs was referring to when he said that he’d finally cracked the TV interface, and judging by the videos and demonstrations, it looks like a huge improvement over most set-top-box streaming devices currently on the market.
Apple has finally become serious about television.
The main attraction for most was the new iPhone. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus seems like a decent upgrade from current models. Despite having the outward appearance of being identical to the iPhone 6 (albeit a fraction of a millimetre thicker), there’s a new “rose gold” (pink?) colour, while the internals and outer case have apparently received a thorough overhaul: there is a 7000 series aluminium exterior (no more Bendgate!?), tougher cover glass developed in conjunction with Gorilla Glass, an A9 64-bit CPU with integrated and always-on M9 motion coprocessor, faster Wi-Fi, faster LTE, faster TouchID, an improved 12 megapixel iSight rear camera and a 5 megapixel FaceTime HD front camera.
Perhaps the most significant new feature on the 6s is a pressure sensitive display using something they’re marketing as 3D Touch. Quite why the term Force Touch has been abandoned for the iPhone is anyone’s guess, but it does seem to provide what looks like an effective method of interaction.
Much like the Apple Watch, pressing harder on the screen activates additional functions and menus, but Apple says it has thought carefully about how and where 3D Touch is used. Rather than having to guess almost randomly (like on Apple Watch) to determine which apps support the new pressure-sensitive gestures, Apple showed ways to ‘peek’ into the content that you’re already looking at (like a web link in a message or email) as a kind of quick-look preview, complete with vibration feedback thanks to the new taptic engine. Pressing the screen even harder in peek mode then screen ‘pops’ the content into full view. Members of the press who have already had a hands-on session with the iPhone 6s claim that it’s quite intuitive and does in fact enhance the user experience quite noticeably…
The iPhone 6s is priced from £539 for the base 16 GB in the UK. The iPhone 6S Plus costs from £619 for the same storage option. In the US however, Apple has launched a monthly mobile plan which basically allows you to lease an iPhone on a yearly basis and receive a brand new model each year for $32 per month (including AppleCare). Apparently the deal will be available in the UK before long, too. Both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are set for release in the US, UK and Europe later this month on the 25th, with more markets shortly afterwards.
So do the new products revealed yesterday live up to the hype? Let us know in the comments below…