Apple’s September 2017 Event Wrap-Up, We Knew Something Edition
It was incredibly touching to open Apple’s first-ever event at the Steve Jobs Theater with his voice. Before anyone stood on stage to tell us all about the new Apple Watch, the new Apple TV, or the new iPhones, it was great to hear Jobs talking about what keeps Apple, Apple. Amidst all the design details of the Steve Jobs Theater, from the revolving elevators to the exquisitely crafted staircases, Jobs shared words about being true to who we are, and remembering who we are. And with that, it was on with the show.
Well, kind of. Apple CEO Tim Cook had a quick spiel about Apple Park, this being the first event in Apple’s new space, and it looks pretty great. The new visitor centre, with its own Apple Store and augmented reality experience, will be open later this year, and just like you might expect, it’s all powered by 100% renewable energy.
Apple SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts talked about Apple’s retail transformation. If you’ve been reading the news you’ll know what this is about; Apple’s been revamping the retail experience in a number of different stores worldwide, and they’re incredibly proud of transforming retail outlets into modern town squares. Ahrendts discussed a few new upcoming stores, including the return of the glass cube at Apple’s redesigned Fifth Avenue location, the Carnegie Library Apple Store, and Chicago’s latest flagship store on Michigan Avenue.
The Apple Watch segment of the event opened with a video from Apple Watch owners, reading feedback they had sent to Apple about how the Apple Watch had changed their lives. It was then Apple COO Jeff Williams’ turn to talk about the Apple Watch, which has become the most used heart rate monitor in the world. Apple’s making improvements to Apple Watch heart rate tracking, including more metrics for a better picture of your heart rate throughout the day. There’s also a new feature which means Apple Watch detects an elevated heart rate without corresponding activity, as well as heart rhythm study to detect irregular rhythms in partnership with Standford Medicine. The health and fitness features come as part of all the other features in watchOS 4, which launches on September 19.
Apple Watch Series 3 now comes with LTE connectivity, for mobile data and calls. The Apple Watch having its own mobile connectivity means you don’t have to be tethered to an iPhone, so you can go out for a run without worrying about not being able to be contacted in emergencies. You’ll be able to make and receive calls, stream the entire Apple Music library, and even listen to Siri thanks to the improved processor. Both cellular and non-cellular versions are available, with orders for the Apple Watch Series 3 beginning on September 15, shipping a week later on September 22. Australian pricing starts at $459 for the non-cellular version, with the cellular version starting at $559, depending on which size and band combination you go for.
As expected and rumoured, the new Apple TV features 4K and HDR compatibility. Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue talked about the greatly increased colour depth offered by HDR in both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards, and improvements to the TV app that now include content from ABC and SBS from the iView and OnDemand streaming services, respectively. Performance improvements allow for new game experiences, and it’s even pretty cool that Apple will be upgrading any HD content you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store for free. The Apple TV 4K is still available in two models, with the 32GB version coming in at $249, and the 64GB version at $279. Pre-orders start Friday, shipping one week later on September 22.
We’re now ten years into the iPhone, so you know this one was going to be a good one. Apple SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller introduced the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, telling us that they sport the same 4.7 and 5.5-inch display sizes as their predecessors, but that’s about the only thing that’s the same. There’s a new design, for starters, with glass on both sides, and the display now has True Tone for the first time in an iPhone. The speakers are louder. The A11 Bionic chip is faster. The cameras are better in both models, although you’ll still need to spring for the Plus model if you want access to Portrait mode, which exits beta to be replaced by a portrait lighting mode which lets you customise the lighting, even after the shot, all generated by algorithms. 4K video capture at 60 fps is now possible thanks to an Apple-designed video encoder, as well as 1080p at 240 fps.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are both designed with augmented reality in mind. Wireless charging is now possible thanks to the glass back, with Apple supporting the Qi wireless charging standard both for compatibility with any of your current wireless charging pads, or ones coming from your favourite manufacturer. Pre-orders for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus start this Friday, September 15, with devices shipping one week later. Australian pricing starts at $1,079 for the 64GB non-Plus model, with the 64GB Plus model coming in at $1,229. There’s also a 256GB version available for $1,329 and $1,479 in the 4.7 and 5.5-inch models, respectively.
The return of One More Thing allowed Schiller to introduce the future of the smartphone in the iPhone X. It looks pretty much like you’d expect, with a 5.8-inch Super Retina display powered by OLED technology, featuring the same brightness, wider colour support, and colour accuracy, as well as all of the traditional advantages of OLED, as well as HDR and True Tone.
With no home button, the new iPhone X experience is all about new gestures for going back to the home screen, and switching between apps. Face ID replaces Touch ID here, powered by an infrared camera, flood illuminator, and a dot projector. By illuminating your face with invisible dots and then having a neural network compare that to previously-generated maps of your face, Face ID is more secure than Touch ID and seems to work just as well, at least in Apple’s on-stage demos. Well, besides the part where Craig had to go to a backup phone. Face ID means your device is only unlocked when you give it your attention, and it’s smart enough to recognise the difference between your face — even if you change your hairstyle, put on glasses or a hat, or grow a beard, and Apple says it won’t be fooled by a printout of your face or by a detailed mask.
Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi gave us a short demo of the other face-tracking feature of the iPhone X. Animoji are expressive, animated emojis that are based on your own face, mapping your emotions onto the face of a monkey, a cat, or even a poop. You can send a recorded Animoji using iMessage, and the face tracking also allows for some pretty cool effects within apps like Snapchat.
Just like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the iPhone X will support wireless charging. The vertically-aligned dual cameras both come with faster lenses and better sensors, both also featuring optical image stabilisation. And like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, the iPhone X will support the portrait lighting feature, to adjust lighting of your subjects after you’ve taken the shot. Unlike the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, you also get the portrait lighting feature with photos taken from the front-side camera, thanks to the TrueDepth front-facing camera system. Battery life is also improved, with an extra two hours over the iPhone 7.
All of this tech comes at a cost, and if the rumours were true about one thing, they were true about the higher cost of the iPhone X. In Australia, the iPhone X comes in two colours, and two capacities. The 64GB version is $1,579, with the 256GB coming in at $1,829. Pre-orders start on the October 27, with devices shipping on November 3.
Apple’s last but not least was AirPower, a wireless charging pad compatible with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, iPhone X, Apple Watch Series 3, and the new, optional, wireless charging case for AirPods. AirPower be available sometime next year.
And that was pretty much it for Apple’s September 2017 event. Rumours gave us a lot of what was announced in the keynote, but as they say, the devil is in the details. A quote from Steve Jobs closed everything out, saying that he believed people expressed their appreciation to the rest of humanity by making something wonderful and putting it out there, and Apple certainly did that earlier this morning. And like Apple Park and the Steve Jobs Theater within it, it was a team effort.