Welcome to the annual round of Apple’s fall announcements. The pre-event predictions were mixed: many expected a snoozefest on the iPhone front, expressed some yay-but-skeptical opinions on Apple TV, and saw possibilities for the new tech in the iPad.
Much of what we saw today builds on the developer rollouts made back in June. The biggest is the new version of the operating system for the iPhone and iPad, iOS 9, which has been in public beta since July and brings with it improved battery life, public transit information, improved search through Spotlight and Siri and an improved keyboard. iOS 9 also buffs up supporting iPads with a side-by-side view, picture-in-picture video, an app shortcut bar and two-finger cursor control while editing text.
But there’s plenty that’s new: Here are the highlights.
As always, and like all companies, Apple bolsters its announcements with testimonials and numbers selected to paint a rosy picture of its current lineup, such as the 97 percent customer satisfaction rating for the Apple Watch and the availability of 10,000 Watch apps. That said, the stock market seemed unimpressed.
This was one of the most third-party-demo-filled Apple events I’ve seen; it felt more like an E3 press conference. And buried in a demo email, OS X El Capitan might be shipping September 30. IOS 9 arrives September 16.
iPhone updates: iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus
Both the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus use the same body design as their predecessors, but come in a new rose gold aluminum finish; the aluminum is a new alloy, and they use new, stronger glass on the screens.
Apple has evolved multitouch into 3D Touch, what Apple’s calling the multitouch interface used by its Force Touch technology. Different degrees of pressure perform different levels of operation, analogous to tap vs. tap-and-hold, using vibrational feedback. In some ways, it performs the same functions of devices with wraparound screens, like the Galaxy S6 Edge. It does look like there will be a bit of a learning curve.
The chip jumps to A9 with an M9 motion coprocessor that’s built in (for fitness trackers, for example) that’s always on — as is “Hey, Siri” — for much better performance. The updated Touch ID is also faster.
The new iSight camera bumps to 12 megapixels with more focus pixels for (theoretically) faster, more accurate focus. The photodiodes use something Apple calls Deep Trench Isolation Technology to minimize crosstalk; it looks like there are gaps between the wells to keep electrons from leaking into neighboring wells and contaminating the colors.
As expected, Apple rolls out 4K video (best for editing or playing back on a large screen). The FaceTime camera bumps up to 5MP, and Apple uses the phone display as the flash with better white balance.
Live Photos lets you press on a photo to animate it. It captures a couple seconds before and after the shutter press to capture extra data, a popular feature in standalone cameras. The format will be supported by the Facebook app later this year.
Wi-Fi is faster, as is the cell networking. And there are new accessories, including a color-matched charging dock.
The prices run the same or less as the previous generation, but they’re muddied because of the disappearing two-year contract There’s a new upgrade program, $32 per month for 24 months, which allows for new iPhone every year. Preorders start September 12, available September 25 in a variety of places, including US, UK and Australia.
Apple TV gets its looooong-awaited update — it’s had no significant changes since 2012, which is generations in streaming-TV years. Apple redesigned the box with a faster processor, more onboard storage and a Siri voice-control update to the software that runs the box. There’s also an app store now, and an overhauled remote. And games!
“The future of television is apps” started the Apple TV news. The new box, based on updated hardware, incorporates Siri voice search and sophisticated filtering — which will search across many of your content apps — and can pop up various types of related information. the new remote has a glass touch surface for navigation, is wider than the old remote, has extra buttons and comes in black.
The new interface has been redesigned to look pretty and uses high-definition video for screen savers.
It will support Netflix, HBO (with new imagery and UI), Hulu (primetime TV shows), as well as games like Galaxy on Fire; games seem to be a big deal for Apple here. It also runs regular apps, for lean-back (leaner-back?) and group use, as opposed to crowding around an iPad, using the remote. There’s multiplayer support as well. The remote also senses movement, for Wii-like control, plus it supports third-party controllers. And there’s shopping.
Of course, it takes advantage of sports-n-stats via channels like MLB.TV, with split-screen viewing.
The new box uses a 64-bit A8 chip, with 802.11ac Wi-Fi. On the back there’s power, HDMI, and Ethernet connectors. The new Siri remote comes bundled. It communicates via Bluetooth so you don’t have to point it at the box.
Prices: 32GB, $149 and 64GB, $199. The older Apple TV will remain for $69. Developers can get tvOS today; Apple TV will be available in November.
New iPads: iPad Pro and iPad Mini 4
Goldilocks, there’s an iPad sized for you. What’s the “pro” in iPad Pro? A high-resolution (but at 5.6-megapixel, less than 4K-capable) 12.9-inch screen about the size of a Macbook Air’s with a full-size virtual keyboard and support for the split screen and other features in iOS 9.
With the new A9X third-generation 64-bit chip and twice the memory bandwidth of its predecessor, Apple claims “desktop class performance.” It also supports variable refresh rate screen updating for power saving. Other perks: 10-hour battery life and a four-speaker audio system putting out three times the audio of the iPad Air 2. Its improved graphics hardware and iOS 9 acceleration also speeds up more graphics-intensive apps.
It’s thinner than the iPad Air and lighter than the original iPad. Apple offers a Smart Keyboard accessory just for this device. It attaches via a new technology called the Smart Connector, which carries power and data and connects magnetically.
The rumored stylus exists, and its dubbed the Apple Pencil. It emits signals from two locations to make shaded strokes, and the system scans twice as fast to capture them. It recharges off the Lightning connector, which plugs right into the tablet. Rather than pressure, it tracks tilt and pressure, which one-ups most iPad styluses, Apple claims it’s more precise, and it’s supported by many apps out of the box.
The Pro also runs Microsoft Office apps, in split screen, no less. Adobe demonstrated Adobe Comp; a new app called Adobe Photoshop Fix, formerly Project Rigel, which has facial feature detection built in and which will ship in October; and Photoshop Sketch with specific support for the Pencil.
Other tech specs include an 8MP iSight camera (a bit disappointing for me), FaceTime HD camera, TouchId, and 802.11ac (really fast Wi-Fi). It will start at $799 for 32GB with Wi-Fi, 128GB for $949 and 128GB with Wi-Fi and cell for $1,079; the Pencil is $99 and the Smart Keyboard is $169. It will start shipping in November.
The iPad Mini 2 drops to $269. A new iPad Mini 4, which packs the Air 2 into the Mini design and runs for $399.
There are some new iCloud storage upgrade plans as well, ranging from 50GB for $0.99 a month, 200GB for $2.99 and 1TB for $9.99 a month, half the cost of before.
Starting with a recap of the June Watch OS 2 announcements, it then moved into the availability of Facebook Messenger, GoPro control and iTranslate apps. We heard about a bunch of new Watch apps, like the AirStrip app health app for physicians to communicate health data and schedule in real time and well as monitor patients at home.
Apple also highlighted new bands, with designer partners, like the Hermes editions, which will be available in October, and new rose gold and anodized aluminum Sport versions of the Watch. There’ll be a new set of colorful band options, too.