Apple’s September 2014 Event Wrap Up, Stream Was Weird Edition

Apple’s September event announcing the next iPhone and Apple Watch wrapped up earlier this morning, and besides a few stream glitches in the early game, it was pretty smooth sailing. Here’s a summary of everything they announced.

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened proceedings, cutting things short by not giving us any remarkable numbers about Apple Stores, iPhone sales, or anything like that. Instead, it was straight into the new iPhone, just nine minutes into the event. Accompanied, as many people on my Twitter stream will attest to, test pattens with transmit truck schedules, frequent stream dropouts, and let’s not forget, the Mandarin translation of everything Phil Schiller was saying on stage.

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iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are Apple’s latest iteration of the iPhone. The press release calls them the biggest advancements in iPhone history, which may be a small play on words there. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus come with larger displays than their predecessors, with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens at 1334 x 750 and 1920 x 1080, respectively. Both models come with A8 processors with 25% faster CPU and 50% faster graphics over the previous generation. The new M8 motion co-processor now measures altitude as well as steps, and that combined along with HealthKit means you’ll be able to keep track of how much you’ve moved during the day.

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Both iPhones get bigger screens this time around, and to balance some of the existing issues with one-handed use, Apple now use a new landscape view in many apps. A new feature called “Reachability” means you can double-tap the Touch ID-enabled home button to move top-oriented UI elements to the bottom of the display, so you don’t have to reach your thumbs all the way up to access Mobile Safari’s URL bar, for example. Apple has said most apps will work out of the box with the larger screen, however developers do have the option to build their apps to show expanded content on the larger screens.

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The only real difference between the two models of iPhone is the camera: the iPhone 6 Plus gets optical image stabilisation where the iPhone 6 doesn’t. It remains to be seen how much of a difference this makes to everyday photography conditions, especially with the advanced image signal processor present in both models. Other than that, both models come with 8 megapixel shooters as standard, upgraded over the previous generation with the addition of phase-detect autofocus, something photography buffs will tell you results in faster, more accurate autofocus. Slow motion capture also gets improved to 240 frames per second, up from the 120 FPS in the iPhone 5s.

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In terms of pricing and availability, the new iPhone will be available on September 19th from 8am from Apple Retail locations, with pre-orders starting on September 12th. Apple has upped the ante in terms of capacity this time around, dropping the 32GB model from the lineup and going with a 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB variants in Silver, Gold, and Space Grey. The iPhone 6 will cost $869 for the 16GB, $999 for the 64GB, and $1129 for the 128GB, while the iPhone 6 Plus will set you back $999, $1129, and $1249 for the 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB models, respectively.

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Apple Pay

We made it through the stream dropouts and lengthy game demos, only for Apple to tell us our wallets were obsolete? It turns out, Apple Pay is their solution to mobile payments, combining NFC in the new iPhone with software and security to essentially give us an iPhone version of PayWave/PayPass. It seemed kind of revolutionary to the Americans in the audience, but us Aussies have been doing this kind of thing for years. Still, Apple’s solution combines the security of Touch ID with the privacy Apple are renowned for. Apple Pay also represents a new way to pay for goods and services in-apps, which means you can now pay for MLB tickets in the official MLB app.

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Unfortunately, that’s kind of where the good news ended: Apple Pay will only be available in the US when it launches in October, with Apple working hard to ensure they can bring it to international markets. The only real consolation is that Australia isn’t tied to magnetic swipe cards as much as the US is, so we’re a little ahead of the game in that regard.

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Apple Watch

Tim Cook busted out the “One More Thing” for the first time in years, and it was kind of warranted. The One More Thing turned out to be Apple Watch, an entirely new product category for Apple. The Apple Watch is Apple’s wearable, and it’s designed to be beautiful, personal, intimate, and all of those things. It doesn’t run iOS, but can run its own apps. It comes with customisable watch faces and a little nub on one end they call the Digital Crown, which lets you zoom in and out of maps, for example, or press to return to the home screen.

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It wouldn’t be an Apple wearable without being packed to the gills with tech, and the Apple Watch has it in spades. There’s a sapphire display, wireless induction charging (and no official word on battery life, mind you), and something called “Taptic”, Apple’s version of haptic feedback that gives you gentle vibrations for notifications. The display is touch-sensitive, of course, but more than that, also senses force, able to differentiate between a tap and a forceful poke. IR and visible light sensors on the rear detect your heart rate, and there’s plenty of on-board sensors to track your movements throughout the day. Apple Watch can tell you how much you’ve stood up and how much of your 30 minutes of exercise you’ve had, sharing all that info with your iPhone.

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I can already tell apps are going to be a huge deal on this thing. Animated emotes are all fun and games, but Apple’s Digital Touch is really, really awesome — kind of like a miniaturised social network for Apple Watch owners, a cross between the Yo app and a really neat way to communicate between two Apple Watch users. I like it.

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In his introductory video, Jony Ive (who we didn’t see on screen at all) also talked about the design aspects of the watch. I won’t pretend to know what your fashion sense is like, so you’ll have to check out the watch for yourself and make up your own mind on how it looks. Some think it’s too square and too blocky, some think it’s super gorgeous, so you’ll have to decide for yourself. I will say this, though: the sheer variety of watch bands on offer speaks volumes about the amount of thought Apple have put into the fashion considerations of the thing. Check out the gallery on Apple’s website and see what you think.

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Apple Watch will come in three different models, each of which will come in two different sizes. The Apple Watch is the entry level model, with a stainless steel enclosure in silver or black, a sapphire display, and “a range of stylish bands”. The Apple Watch Sport has anodised aluminium cases with extra-durable glass and “colourful, durable bands”, while the Apple Watch Edition is made of 18-carat gold, has a sapphire display, and has “exquisitely crafted bands and enclosures”. Availability has been stated as early 2015, starting at US $349 — Australian availability and pricing has not been announced. There’s plenty of videos on the Apple website, so check them out.

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U2

After the product announcements were over and people were preparing to pack it up and get some hands-on time with Apple’s new gadgets, Tim Cook announced U2 were going to perform. They did one song, then Cook was back on stage for a weird sketch that eventually led to them announcing the availability of a new U2 album, free of charge for over half a billion iTunes Store customers. Songs of Innocence is now in your iTunes library, if that’s your jam.

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And that was that. There was just one more question to be answered: what, exactly, was in the white box Apple constructed next to the Flint Center? My sources tell me it was simply a press briefing area, where the invited guests and journalists got some hands-on time with new Apple hardware.

How boring. The Hands-On Pavilion, that is, not the Apple event.

Notable Replies

  1. Thanks for posting the round up! It's a shame NFC isn't launching in Australia just yet...it was kind of the only reason I had to upgrade my 4S. Hopefully it doesn't take too long. The iPhones are a big win in my book - I notice a lot of people not liking the bands on the back, but to me they are much more preferable than the strips of the 5/5s.

  2. Thanks for reminding me to post something about iPhone screen sizes @The_Hawk!

    Look, here's the deal. I currently rock a HTC One M8, which has a 5-inch, 1080p display. The screen is nice and all, but it's kinda large. It's not ridiculously Note-sized or anything, but it's still uncomfortable. Using it one-handed when I'm lying down in bed is nigh impossible thanks to the sheer size and weight of the thing. I don't care what size hands you have, using that size iPhone one-handed without some kind of awkward juggling is just not something I see happening.

    If my time with the One M8 has taught me anything, it's that it's just slightly too big — which is why I'm leaning towards regular iPhone 6, optical image stabilisation be damned. 4.7-inches would be near perfect IMHO, but if you're on the fence, print out Ars Technica's life-size paper cutout of both models and check it out for yourself.

    Better yet, go to any telco store and check out the phone sizes in person and see if a 5-5inch iPhone is really what you want. You'll probably find it's larger than you think, but then again, it might not be that big of a deal for you.

  3. Unclear. There's next to no information on the Apple website about Apple Pay (that I could find).

    If you assume that the Watch has NFC as shown off in Apple press images then I can't see why you would need the NFC in the iPhone, meaning it could work with the iPhone 5/5s, but this is Apple we're talking about.

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