Time has come for the annual fall iPhone event and man it was a dozy. Apple picked one of the largest venues it could get with San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and the event was big to match. First off, as expected we got the iPhone 6S. Next, the iPad family literally grew with a 12” iPad Pro. Lastly, Just as we had a new development platform in WatchOS last year with the Apple Watch announcement, there is another new platform in the 4th Generation AppleTV and its new tvOS. These new products look to grow Apple’s brand either further in the coming year, but what exactly was in them? Let’s take a look.
I honestly didn’t expect much from the Apple Watch at this event, but we got a lot. First off, Watch OS 2 is coming, soon. Like next week on September 16th soon. It comes with full native app support so you’re no longer relying on your iPhone to power the thing. While at its heart, the Apple Watch is still a bit of an advanced accessory, it aides your iPhone in its own right and can take a lot of the load of of its larger sibling. Most importantly, just as we’re reaching the holiday season, mainstream buyers will be receiving the Apple watch as it was intended to be.
Next is a surprising amount of new accessories for the Apple Watch itself. The Sport Band now comes in quite a few new colors including (PRODUCT) Red. There are also new two-tone classic buckles. Existing watches can be ordered with new band options including a more affordable Space Black model with black sport band instead of the link bracelet.
But they couldn’t have brought brand new Apple Watches to the event, could they? Oh they they did. The Apple Watch Sport has received from new style. It now comes in the the same gold and rose gold aluminium finishes as the iPhone line. Apple also partner with noted French luxury manufacturer Hermès on a collaboration that introduces an exclusive new Collection of the Apple Watch with the Hermès style, look, and feel. Included are Single Tour, Double Tour, and Cuff straps designed by Hermès. They will only be sold in select locations. I have a feeling this won’t be the only time Apple partners with an existing watch maker.
In a summer of constrained supply and wild rumors, the Apple Watch ecosystem seems to be coming together this fall.
If I had to place a bet of things I would see, an almost 13” iPad with a stylus would not be on the list. Yet it exists in the form of the iPad Pro. The iPad Pro is based around a 12.9” screen with a 2732 x 2048 resolution. The 2048 isn’t an accident as it’s designed to run standard iPad apps side by side in portrait mode. The new chip is Apple’s third generation of 64-bit Armv8 Systems on chip. While the A8 was an improved version of Cyclone, A9 and this model’s A9X is something completely different and more powerful. Apple is projecting up to twice as fast, but we’ll see later this when real world numbers hit the street. The Pro is also an improved media platform with a four speaker array.
The Pro just doesn’t mean it’s bigger. It’s aimed at Pros, especially graphic design pros and artists. To that end, it’s paired with Apple’s new Pencil Stylus. At $99 its rather expensive, it only works with the iPad Pro, and we’ve seen stylii many times before, but it’s nice to Apple taking steps to make the technology more compatible for those who prefer a stylus. It’s no longer a necessity for controlling the OS, but it’s become exactly watch it should be, a digital writing and drawing tool.
The iPad Pro comes in 3 models in your standard three colors of gold, silver, and space grey. It also comes in a trio of models: 32GB Wi-Fi for $799, 128GB for $949, and 128GB Cellular for $1079. Also joining the fray is a new iPad Mini with with a new thinner design and specs to match the iPad Air 2.
Apple TV 4 and tvOS
I have been waiting for the new Apple TV for Years. The Amazon Fire TV changed everything for me a year and a half ago. It paired flagship phone level hardware with voice search and ushered in a new paradigm of set top boxes. Android TV has followed up with some very intriguing hardware on its own. Neither of them had exactly what I was looking for. The new Apple TV does.
The new box looks much like the old one, but only a bit taller. The small remote doesn’t look anything special, but they are both a far leap forward over their predecessors. The hardware is based upon the A8 Chip from the iPhone 6. This is a gigantic leap forward from the single Core A5 that powered the third generation model. It shows in all aspects of the TV. In fact, it now runs a full-powered fork of iOS 9 called tvOS. tvOS has its own App Store that includes both custom AppleTV apps, the devs have full control of their interface this time around, as well as universal apps that share code. This will make full screen apps like games extremely easy to port. Having the full line of iOS 9 APIs including metal and MFI controller support doesn’t hurt either.
The interface is based upon a new remote. Like the Click Wheel gave way to the touch screen, the new AppleTV remote is based around a TouchPad at the top. of the remote. It has far more buttons than the old AppleTV remote because it does far more. It’s based on Bluetooth 4.0 instead of RF in the old model. There’s a voice button for Siri who is pervasive throughout tvOS, a menu button, the play/pause button, and TV on and volume buttons. Yeah, the new AppleTV has CEC support and can control your tv’s functions so you don’t have to switch remotes. The remote has a three month charge and is charged by a standard Lightning cable. The remote isn’t revolutionary in its feature set, but Apple seems to have implemented it better than anyone else.
Now we come to the content. Siri has the ability to search not only iTunes content, but Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime as well. That’s just the first wave. The search seems quite advanced too with Siri able to find a tv show episode that Edward Norton guest starred in. Being able to quickly play the content you want rather than searching through menu after menu is a killer feature that the Apple TV has lacked. The overall menu is more powerful while being easier to use at the same time. Touch swipes are used for navigation and additional content. This was used to great effect during a demo for the improved MLB at Bat app with the Apple TV brining up stats and easily switching between games. If there is one drawback, the 4th Gen Apple TV is not yet ready for 4k Ultra HD. Its still a 1080 full HD device.
The new Apple TV 4 comes in at $149 for a 32GB model and $199 64GB model. If that’s too steep, the 3rd generation model sticks around at $69.
iPhone 6S & 6S Plus
The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus look exactly like the models released a year ago beyond an additional color of rose gold. The screens are also roughly the same as the old models. What’s new then? Lots actually. The iPhone is based on the same A9 architecture as the iPad Pro. It promises to be a much more substantial upgrade than last year’s A8. The camera is a high quality 12mp part that brings 4k to the iPhone camera. It also does Apple’s version of living pictures and automatically. The front Facetime camera has been upgraded to 5mp part with the screen wired to be used as flash. These are all great features, but they’re evolutionary. They make it a better version of the 6 and 6 Plus. That’s not everything its got up its sleeve however.
The 6S also has 3D touch. This is more or less iOS’s version of Force Touch. Essentially it adds equivalent functionality to quick peek and the right click on the Mac. This is huge. It means you can get to more functions much quicker. This also means you can perform limited app tasks without having to actually launch the app. This takes the tablet from a more limited environment to something that is more functionally equivalent to a desktop OS.
Rounding out the 6S’s spec list is new LTE chip. Its faster with LTE and it uses pretty much all of the LTE bands. Up to 23. This includes Band 12 which is popular with T-Mobile, US Cellular, and many smaller carriers. Apple has been reluctant to use band 12 prior to this model. The chip also has LTE-Advanced support.
Pricing for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, is exactly the same as the preceding models. The 5S, 6, and 6 Plus each drop $100 in price. If you want a colorful plastic iPhone, you better it one while it lasts.
For other iPhone owners, Apple announced the iOS 9 will ship September 16th, the same day as WatchOS 2
This was a good year for Apple. The Apple Watch, iPad Pro, Apple TV, and iPhone 6S look to be very strong products. I can’t wait to get my mitts on them. I have a feeling I won’t be alone.