Luckily I fly a lot and today’s journey to Leeds is going to give me time to the no about what we saw yesterday afternoon. It was a busy day for Apple, with the now usual end of summer event, super packed with new and exciting stuffs.
I have few things to say about it, and i’ll respect the order in which they were presented on stage, to give the same flow and continuity given by Apple.
Lights out. Queue slide one.
There are good news here for existing and new owners.
For existing owners of Watch, the biggest news is that arrival on watchOS 2 on September 16th. The update will bring native apps, but perhaps the biggest advantage will be represented by third-party complications. It always felt kind of limiting to only be able to count on Apple-provided complications, especially because having info on the watch face is by far the best way of interacting with your Watch.
Let’s now talk of the “new” hardware. We’ve got new colors for the plastic sport bands, with less “flashy” tonalities, plus a new amazing Classic Buckle revision1.
Particularly interesting is the high-level fashion partnership with Hermes. Apple announced a new line of watches to sit between the Watch and the Watch Edition range. There are three exclusive watch straps – the double loop looking especially good – and a new watch face, only available on that line, to complement the Hermes branding and I guess to make it look almost proprietary to them (at least fashion-wise)2.
All in all it was a solid segment for the Watch. Nothing too surprising, but a good iteration cycle over a new product, as we should expect from a company like Apple.
Now let’s talk for a whole about the physical and metaphorical king of the show: the iPadPro.
At 12.9″ diagonal, it is a massive real estate screen. As always Apple was big on numbers: how many millions pixels, how many sensors and so on and so forth. If you ask me, the most important takeaway from that is the iPadPro in landscape can run a full-size portrait mode iPad app plus having the space for almost another one.
As Schiller said on stage, the side-by-side functionality in iOS 9 was built for this device and you can easily see the reason why.
The other very important message is how powerful this thing is. It’s faster and more powerful than many laptop on the market today, all in a casing that is just about as heavy as the original iPad3.
The power of the hardware is once again given to developers to create amazingly powerful software. The demo section for the iPadPro was very much spot on in my opinion. I guess to better understand this segment, I need to give a bit of background. It’s been a couple of month now since i’be started using my iPad at work more and more over my standard issued laptop. The advantages are clear: much faster, much more portable and more powerful. I’m especially an avid user of Microsoft Office, which is why I was probably among a few number of people being very excited about the first demo.
It was then kind of fun to see Schiller introducing a Microsoft SVP to demo what’s coming. Nothing revolutionary, but at least we’ve got a confirmation of full support for Office on iOS 9, especially related to split view and side-by-side functionalities4.
I’ve also liked the Adobe demo quite a lot. It demonstrate the power and flexibility of the iPad in general as a platform and in this specific case the fact the all these workflows are going to be super fast on the new iPadPro. I guess that before continuing I might have to mention the #smilegate brought upon us by all the press out there. During the demo, the Adobe representative showed a picture of a woman and with the magic of the software he edited her face a put a smile on her face with one flick of the Pencil. If you ask me I don’t see why the Internet had to go crazy about it. He wasn’t fixing her, he was demoing a software feature by simulating a fashion magazine, where the canon calls for a smile. If you have a problem with that call Vogue, don’t use Adobe to get more page views.
Moving on to accessories. As it is now common, Apple introduced its own line of accessories. The difference this time is that the target wasn’t to make the iPad more beautiful, but instead they are geared toward augmenting its functionalities and power.
With such a big and gorgeous screen it would be stupid to waste most of it by displaying a software keyboard. That’s why Apple took a page from Microsoft book by announcing the Smart Keyboard. As the Surface, the iPad has a new interface port (Smart Connector), where accessories can connect to to transmit power and data. The Smart Keyboard in fact doesn’t have a battery or Bluetooth. You just slide the iPadPro on top of it and you can start working immediately. In therm of size, is a full size keyboard, but it also has shortcut buttons to call iOS-specific actions and the keys are using the same butterfly technology introduced with the new ultra-thin MacBook.
It was interesting to wake up this morning to Logitech announcing a third-party keyboard cover ready for launch on day one. Even more interesting is the line in the press release noting the Apple and Logitech had been working together in advance in order to deliver this accessory for day one, another sign of a more open Apple when it make sense for the benefit of the platform.
Among other things, it seems that Apple also had time to reinvent the pencil!
Joking aside, the Pencil is the first stylus designed and produced by Apple in-house, in order to complement the iPadPro. Again, it just seemed logical to have such a pointing device, considering the advancements brought in by the new massive screen. We saw a couple of interesting demo that underlined how the Pencil is meant to be used for ultra-high precision sessions, rather than a general pointing device (for which the human finger still makes a great job at).
Many people will keep pointing out about the moment Steve Jobs derided the concept of the stylus and they’ll all be missing the point here. It’s very clear where Apple is drawing the line here (no pun intended): it’s a precision tool, not a mouse.
How much does this thing costs?
Of course one of the big miseries of the iPadPro was its positioning in the market and in the current iPad lineup. Turns out Apple made some very peculiar choices with the price/size matrix for the new device. The iPadPro will only have two storage sizes: 32GB or 128GB. It’s very strange that they didn’t put anything in between, such as a 64GB configuration.
In term of connectivity you can choose between a wifi only or a wifi + LTE, but there’s a catch. LTE will only be available on the 128GB model.
Prices for the UK haven’t been announced yet, nor we have a specific release date. At the moment we only know that it’s coming in November. Looking at recent history my best guess is that we can just take the price in dollars and replace the currency symbol with pounds to get our prices (or very close to that).
The iPadPro starts at $799 and goes up to more than a $1,000. The Pencil comes in at $99 and the Smart Keyboard is $129. If you want everything is going to be an expensive holiday season for you.
The price point also makes for a good set of observations: who is it for?
Creative and designers, yes. Photographers I assume; such a majestic screen on location, combined with the new powerful set of Adobe apps should be a joy. Any kind of professional that normally uses a laptop only for emails, general web browsing and a decent amount of time spent with Microsoft Office5.
I think this is going to be a solid productivity tool for many people across several different industries. Maybe it won’t sell like hot cakes, but it won’t disappoint.
The other big item on the waiting list for yesterday’s event was of course the tv. Thanks to the ever growing accuracy of Mark Gurman over at 9to5mac.com, we knew a new model was coming, we even knew the design would remain the same (the new device is just a bit taller than the other one, but with the same footprint).
Nothing was really surprising about it. If anything the tv represented a way for Apple to catch up on other competitors early models.
We have a Siri remote (we had an Amazon Fire TV remote with voice search a while ago). We have a remote with touch input and Bluetooth connectivity rather than IR (finally!). We have an AppStore for apps and games (finally x 2).
In all fairness I’m not a big fan of tv in the first place, so for me this was just an interlude before the iPhone announcement. It was an overdue refreshment cycle for a very much outdated device. In addition to that, many of the main streaming feature are restricted to the US anyway, so for us europeans there isn’t much to talk about.
iPhone 6s + 6s Plus
Now let’s finally move to what everyone was waiting for: the new iPhones. As usual for the off-years, we got the S upgrade in the form of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus6.
So. What’s new here. According to Apple’s marketing tag line, everything. The headline this year is going to be the new 3D Touch. The new iPhones will have 3 layers of touch sensitivity7. There’s the simple touch, the peek (which is a touch with a bit of pressure) and the pop (a touch and a bit more of pressure). Each level will give access to different layer of information depending on where you are within the system.
If this sound complicated it is because it is complicated. I’m sure feels will love it, I don’t know how “regular” people will live with that. I’m sure it will have quite a learning curve to become really accustomed to it, especially to become comfortable with the different of pressures you need to apply to get what you want out of the system. It makes for good marketing, at the moment I’m a bit skeptic about the real life applications.
The second big focus was the camera. As with every revision there have been improvement in the camera sector. There’s still an ugly bulge on the new iPhones, but they’ve also got an upgraded sensor with 12 megapixels and the ability to record 4K videos.
From a software point of view, the new camera has a new function, called live picture. With it, the new iPhone can capture few seconds before and after your still shot, to add a layer of animation to an otherwise static picture. The feature looks really nice, still by being limited to new iPhones initially it would be difficult to share it outside a very limited circle of friends.
For me tough, the biggest iPhone announcement had nothing to do with software or hardware, but it was the business side instead. Apple announced an annual update program that you can take advantage of by buying your iPhone into an Apple Store. This new program works the same as a 24 months carrier plan: you pay a certain amount to start the contract and then you have a monthly fee. The catch here is that despite being a 24 months agreement, you can update your phone every 12 months. I was super excited about it, until they announced that initially it was limited to the US, but i’m hoping it will make the jump soon to this side of the pond.
So, to conclude this very long piece. This Apple event was super packed with new things across all of their business units. The iPadPro looks to me like the clear winner of the night. And finally, yes Apple is going to make a ton of money during the upcoming holiday season.
Get ready for crazy town.