Apple’s October 2016 Event Wrap Up, Emoji Bar Edition
Provided you didn’t have unrealistic expectations of Apple’s October 2016 event, you weren’t left disappointed. Apple announced a Touch Bar and Touch ID integration on the redesigned 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros, both thinner, lighter, and more space-efficient than their predecessors. Minor adjustments to the rest of the portable Mac lineup and a new Apple TV simply called “TV” rounded out the rest of the announcements. The rest of the news, and our full summary of the event, follows below.
Apple CEO Tim Cook started proceedings with an announcement of a new accessibility page. The new Accessibility mini-site shows off Apple’s accessibility features we’re all familiar with, across all of their platforms. There’s the workout app on the Apple Watch, Switch Control on the Mac, Live Listen on the iPhone, Voice Over on the iPhone, Speak Screen on the iPad, and more. It’s a nice testament to the focus Apple puts on making technology accessible for everyone.
After telling us about a few great photos from the iPhone 7 and the new Portrait mode in iOS 10.1 for the iPhone 7 Plus, Cook pointed out how the Apple Watch Nike+ edition was out today, along with Apple Pay availability in Japan.
With over 8000 apps on the Apple TV, Apple says Minecraft is coming to the Apple TV by the end of the year. There’s also 1,600 apps from video providers, and Apple is adding one more by the end of the year. Simply called “TV”, it consolidates content from all of your Apple TV content apps into one place, making it easy to find something to watch. The TV app shows you what you’ve been watching on other devices, letting you pick up right where you left off, and lets you find something else to watch based on recommendations and hand-curated lists. It’ll be out in December for US customers, with other countries to follow.
Gruber was right when he said there might be a passing reference to an anniversary on stage, only instead of the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, Apple chose to talk about the 25th anniversary of Mac laptops. The first PowerBook was released in the last week of October, 1991, and Apple says they’ve been defining and re-defining what notebooks can do ever since.
For that we needed Apple’s Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing on stage, and it was Phil Schiller’s job to introduce the new MacBook Pro. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is 17% thinner than its predecessor at 14.9mm, weighs just 1.37 KG, and is 23% smaller in volume, making it a more compact machine. The 15-inch machine, on the other hand, comes in at 14% thinner than its predecessor at 15.5mm, weighs 1.83 KG, and is 20% smaller in volume.
But the real news is that both laptops now come with the Touch Bar and Touch ID. The Touch Bar is just like the leaks said it would be; it’s a multi-touch Retina display that occupies the space where the Function keys used to sit. What it displays is contextual based on what you’re currently doing, so it can put up parts of the UI on the Touch Bar, let you scroll through your photos to find the shot you’re looking for, or even have browse for the perfect emoji to add to the conversation.
Demos of the Touch Bar showed some pretty impressive integrations, which the rumours had no idea about. Being able to quickly scrub through your edit timeline in Final Cut Pro X or have quick access to tools in Photoshop all looked great. You’ll be able to customise the Touch Bar to your own liking, and when you’re not doing all of that you can also access the usual function keys for adjusting screen or backlight brightness. There’s a volume slider for adjusting that when you need it, and yeah, the escape key is there as well.
Touch ID, is, well, Touch ID, only on the Mac. You’ll be able to use it to unlock your Mac just like you can on your iPhone and iPad, or pay for things with Apple Pay on the web. There’s also a cool user profile integration, where you can switch user profiles on the Mac using Touch ID.
In terms of hardware specs, both the 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pros come with Intel’s sixth-generation Skylake series of mobile processors, paired with faster memory. The 13-inch comes with Intel’s Iris Graphics 550, while the 15-inch models get the Radeon Pro 450 or 455. Apple quotes the same up-to-10 hour battery life on both models, although you can kiss your MagSafe goodbye. Both models have four USB-C ports, all of which can be used for charging the machine or for connecting peripherals (although you may need an adapter or two), and both come in silver or space grey options.
Other hardware changes include second-generation Butterfly keyboard switches, a Force Touch trackpad that’s now twice as big as previous models, and speakers optimised for air displacement, in the immortal words of Jony Ive. I’m not sure if it was mentioned on stage, but the Retina displays are brighter and also support wide colour in the P3 standard.
You can pre-order the new 13 and 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID right now, with machines shipping in 2-3 weeks. In Australia, pricing starts at $2,699 for the 13-inch model with Touch Bar and Touch ID in the dual-core 2.9GHz, 8GB RAM and 25GB SSD version. The 15-inch model with Touch Bar and Touch ID starts at $3,599 in the quad-core 2.6GHz, 16GB RAM and 256 GB SSD configuration, although on the 15-inch you can also step up to a 2TB SSD for an extra $2,240 if you’re stepping up from the 256GB SSD, or for $1,920 if you’re coming from the 512GB. Either way, that makes the total price an eye-watering minimum of $5,839. If you’re pre-ordering, make sure to use the AppleTalk Apple Online Store affiliate link.
Other minor adjustments to Apple’s portable Mac lineup include the addition of a Touch Bar and Touch ID-less version of the 13 MacBook Pro. This touchless-version, as I’m calling it now, comes with the same massive trackpad and the same redesign as the one with the Touch Bar, only with two USB-C ports and a slightly smaller price tag at $2,199.
Both the 13 and 15-inch models also have their former editions available as entry level machines, priced at $1,999 and $2,999, respectively. The 11-inch MacBook Air is gone, along with the venerable non-Retina MacBook Pro that came with an optical drive, with the latter just 133 days off from becoming Apple’s longest-selling Mac ever.
While there were no new desktop Macs this time around, and still no word about what on earth Apple are doing with the now 1043-day old Mac Pro, those looking for a total revamp of the Mac lineup were left disappointed. But bear in mind that the entire Mac business only accounts for 12% of Apple’s total revenue – today’s shorter event showed that it was an important 12%, nonetheless.