Often, everything changes in the landscape of technology on the day of Apple’s fall event. For many, it officially marks the start of the Tech New Year. A new iPhone is announced every year at the event, and frequently one or two products come along with it. Some are upgrades, some are brand new products. Of course, Apple is no longer the undisputed king of the mobile sphere, with healthy competitors such as Samsung, Motorola, HTC, and on a grander scale, Google, but it has proven to still be quite the heavyweight.
The event moved along at quite a fast pace, and the focal point was undoubtedly the iPhone. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus boast a slew of new upgrades. The new iPhones feature a much needed screen size upgrade, to 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively, and also feature a new design, which is a much more refined, thinner, all metal version of previous iPhones mixed in with a bit of the design language of the iPod Touch. They come in three colors: gold, silver, and space gray. A new A8 processor in the phones is said to be 25% faster than the previous A7 chip, although there was no mention of clock speed. Gaming will improve as well, as the new iPhones have a 50% faster graphics chip, although some of that power will go towards the extra pixels on the larger displays. As always, Apple also made a big deal about its new iSight cameras. The back shooter retains its 8-megapixel resolution, but comes with a new sensor that features an f/2.2 aperture. The larger iPhone 6 Plus also includes optical image stabilization, although the smaller 6 still does have digital image stabilization. On the front, a new sensor with a similar f/2.2 aperture allows for better, brighter selfies. Apple claims battery life is improved as well.
New to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is NFC, which powers Apple’s new payment system, Apple Pay. Apple Pay allows you to store credit and debit cards in your phone and pay at any NFC capable card scanner. Adding extra layers of security, your card data is encrypted on the phone, and a payment can only occur with your finger on the Touch ID scanner. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus go on preorder September 12, and are available for sale beginning on the 19th, starting at $199 for the 6 and $299 for the 6 Plus.
The rumblings of a new “iWatch prior to the event proved to be true; Apple announced its entrance into the smartwatch marketplace with the Apple Watch. Tim Cook described the Apple Watch as one of Apple’s most personal products yet and a highly and “customizable timepiece.” The Watch comes in two different square sizes (for small and large wrists) and three different editions: a normal base model, a “Sport” model, and an “Apple Watch Edition.” All three feature a metal casing, although the Sport and Edition models feature a custom aluminum alloy and 18-carat gold one, respectively. Apple has shown a variety of straps for the Watch, and even a nifty proprietary method for interchangeability. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the Apple Watch was its square shape; many thought it might have been round, similar to the Moto 360.
On the hardware side of things, the Apple Watch has a wide range of sensors and chips, including a gyroscope, heart rate sensor, and accelerometer. Apple claims the heart rate sensor uses a special new way of accurately recording heart rate, although that remains to be seen. Also included in the Watch is something Apple calls Force Touch. With Force Touch, taps and swipes produce the normal, predictable results, but a hard press will bring up a contextual action menu specific to certain functions. The screen is sapphire crystal, which should allow for a highly scratch resistant glass. Apple claims its biggest design accomplishment with the Watch is its Digital Crown, which allows users to smoothly zoom in and out of the user interface without their fingers getting in the way of the display.
In terms of software, Apple has made a variety of customizable watch faces, and the main home screen is a pool of circular apps that scroll extremely smoothly. Apple made it known that the Watch is more than just a device on which to receive and view notifications. You can view and send messages through voice dictation, get directions, and search with Siri. Oddly enough, you can also send small drawings or even your heartbeat to others straight from the watch. There is third party app support, and Apple also made a huge deal out of the Watch as a health-tracking device. It syncs with HealthKit on the iPhone, and has two separate apps, an Activity App for tracking your movements throughout the day, and a Workout App for specific workouts. It also works with Apple Pay. Strangely, Apple mentioned nothing in terms of battery life, and that’s a bit concerning. If the Watch’s battery life was anything impressive with regards to the competition, they surely would have been mentioned it. The Apple Watch is available early next year, starting at $349.
Overall, nothing in the event was overly shocking; accurate rumors had been circulating for months. However, Apple seemed to finally come into its own under Tim Cook. We didn’t see anything revolutionary, but instead saw a variety of highly refined products, working together in great harmony as is so common for Apple. Not since the death of Steve Jobs has Apple presented that “one more thing,” but after today it is likely that we will see many more of those to come.