In the Spirit of Steve
As expected, Apple finally answered all the questions that have been floating around for over a year now about the new iPhone, which is indeed called the iPhone X (“Ten”). But perhaps the biggest event in Apple’s recent history didn’t start with fanfare or bombast, but instead began with a Beatles-backed video tour of the Steve Jobs Theater and a somewhat somber tribute by teary-eyed CEO Tim Cook, who was one of Jobs’ closest friends and confidants. Jobs died in 2011 shortly after proposing the plans for the audacious new campus.
Cook began with a plea for donations to hurricane relief fund Hand in Hand and a quick overview of the new Apple Park campus. And following a recap of Apple’s retail store design efforts, it was on to the main event – or events.
The Apple Watch we really wanted all along
The next generation of the Apple Watch was first up, and Tim Cook says sales are strong in the typically soft smartwatch niche, with the Apple Watch now the top seller in the segment after a time at No. 2.
With Apple-cofounder Steve Wozniac in the crowd, Apple announced the WatchOS 4 update and the new Series 3 of the Apple Watch. The heart rate monitor is getting an update and as expected – and hoped for – the new Apple Watch will have cellular connection ability for calls, and maybe more importantly for some people, streaming music capability, all without an iPhone in your pocket. And yes, Siri will work as well – and will talk from the watch. You can also call watch-to-watch, which we have to admit is pretty cool.
The watch doesn’t require a second phone number or SIM card, and uses a new “e-sim” built into the device. They called a colleague from the theater stage who was paddle-boarding in a remote location, talking using only her Series 3 watch. It sounded great. Of course, the watch also has wifi and Bluetooth.
The full-on Series 3 cellular Apple Watch will run $400, with non-cell Apple Watches starting at $250. The takeaway here? It’s a significant advance for smartwatches, which to this point have been tethered to smartphones to really work to their full potential. Now, the Series 3 watch lets users leave the phone behind and really travel light, all while staying connected – and entertained.
Apple TV 4K now ready for prime time
Eddie Cue then took the stage to show off another expected announcement: Apple TV 4K. Eddie dimmed the lights and showed off some footage and movie clips using a likely exorbitantly expensive HDR 4K projector in the new Steve Jobs theater. Cue said 4K content on the new Apple TV will cost exactly the same as HD versions and anything you bought in HD will be upgraded to 4K automatically at no charge.
Cue also confirmed that live coverage of sporting events will be coming to the Apple TV, along with live news as well. Apple TV is also going to upping its gaming chops as well, thanks to the new X10 fusion chip. ThatGamingCompany showed off an online multi-player game called Sky that took advantage of the new horsepower and resolution, and it looked pretty great. Preorders for the new Apple TV 4K start on Friday and units ship on September 22nd.
From 7 to 8
Cook then took the stage to help introduce the long-awaited new iPhones. The new iPhone 8s were first up, with Phil Schiller doing the honors. The 8 and 8 Plus have glass panels front and back with steel and copper reinforcement, but we’d still suggest a case. The display resolutions of 4.7 and 5.5 inches have been bumped up and Phil says the phones are water and dust resistant.
Plus, the stereo speakers have also been reworked for better sound. A new chip, the A11 Bionic, powers the iPhone 8 handsets, with dedicated GPUs for graphics duties. The camera tech has also been upgraded for less noise and retains its 12 megapixel resolution, but with more color ability, wider dynamic range and faster autofocus. The 8 Plus cameras get faster apertures for low light and all the other updates.
A new feature called Portrait Lighting uses machine learning to actually change the way a subject is lit both while you’re shooting the photo, and also after it was taken. The phones also shoot 4K video of course, with HD slo-mo ability jumping to 240 frames per second. This was also the point where Apple introduced AR features with the iPhone 8, showing off some gaming, sports and astronomy augmented reality features.
Directive games then took the stage to show off The Machines, a game that is played in AR. The demo also showed off the spatial audio abilities of AR kit, which moved, muted and attenuated audio depending on the gamer’s position. It was impressive. Cue then showed off the wireless charging ability of the phones, which appears to be the Qi (chee) close-contact type rather than the hoped-for longer-range “anywhere in the room” type of charging.
Apple is partnering with charger makers rather than putting a unit in the box. The phones start at 699 and 799 for the basic versions, adding memory ups the price of course, and the phones will ship this month.
One more insanely great thing?
At long last, though, it was time for One More Thing: the iPhone X. Tim Cook said the new phone will set the pace for cell phones for the next decade.
Phil Schiller came back to show off Apple’s new baby, which will come in two colors, space gray and silver, and features an OLED screen called the Super Retina Display that measure 5.8 inches at 458ppi, so it should be amazing in VR and AR applications. The display has a million-to one contrast ratio and there’s no home button – you swipe up to get the home screen – no matter what you’re doing on the phone. Siri now lives on the side button or just use your voice.
Schiller also introduced Face ID, Apple’s new biometric unlocking scheme, which includes numerous sensors, projectors and cameras in that little tab at the top of the screen. They system runs at 600 billion operations per second, and setup looks like a hoot. Schiller said the system will also adapt to changes to someone’s face, such as if you grow a beard or put on glasses. Basically, the system continually updates and refines your face data as time goes on.
Shiller said they have projected that there is a one-in-a-million chance that a random person could unlock your phone, which is actually a big improvement over what Touch ID could manage with fingerprints. The system will also work with Apple Pay and other apps that require security. The iPhone X will also use animated emoji called Animojis that are based on what your face is doing. The phone will also map your face for making hi-resolution masks in apps like Snapchat.
All good fun of course; it looks like texting actual text just became really boring. The iPhone X camera system was up next, and the phone features the expected vertical dual-camera array with dual 12-megapixel sensors, optical image stabilization for both lenses, better low light performance, and enhanced portrait features. And of course, it’s fully primed for upcoming AR applications. The dual front cameras also feature enhanced abilities for those all-important selfies.
Schiller said that all the new stuff in the iPhone X uses more juice, so they’ve bumped up battery capacity to last two hours longer than the iPhone 7. But Schiller really did have one more thing up his sleeve: a new wireless charger mat called AirPower that you can load up with an iPhone, Series 3 Apple Watch and AirPods inside a new wireless-capable case. AirPower should arrive next year according to Schiller, with iPhone X preorders in October and shipping in November.
The price? $999 dollars for the base iPhone X. While there weren’t any huge surprises, we have to say the new iPhone Ten and stand-alone Series 3 Apple Watch are indeed big steps forward for Apple and the tech spaces they occupy. What did you think of Apple’s newest products? Leave us a comment on our YouTube and Facebook posts, and we have a full Apple event recap at Digital Trends.com.
We’ve got more news on our Facebook page and YouTube channel, and be sure to tune in to this week’s DT podcasts: Close to the Metal (computers and such) on Tuesday, Trends with Benefits (general tech shenanigans) on Thursdays, and Between the Streams (movie and TV topics) every Friday.
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