Apple Event: No Surprises, but Plenty to Be Excited About
Even though one of the most comprehensive product leaks in the history of Apple happened less than 72 hours before Tim Cook took the stage in the newly opened Steve Jobs Theater, the Apple Event on Tuesday was still a sight to behold. Sure, everything that was reported on happened as it was expected—including the announcement of a $999 iPhone X—but the advancements made by Apple in its updated product lines speak volumes about how this is a company that’s still able to innovate and push consumer technology at an exceptional pace.
A quick aside on the leaks though, because, while we reported on them here, I never got the chance to speak my mind about them. I get why the people in this industry (on the media side) go for these major headlines. Everyone wants to know what Apple, or any tech manufacturer, is up to prior to a major product release. Getting a scoop like that provides an enormous boost to one’s page views and reputation in the industry—especially if said scoop pans out. That’s all well and good. But to the person who perpetrated the leak (likely some disgruntled Apple employee), you, sir, are the poopface emoji except no one thinks you’re cute or funny. Dropping a bombshell leak like the one from this past weekend is akin to telling a two- or three-year-old kid that Santa isn’t real, nor is the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy. Way to ruin the party for everyone.
But I digress.
Ten for Ten
For those who knew nothing about the leaks, and even for those who did, there was plenty to be excited about with all of the new Apple products. Starting with, most notably, the iPhone X (read: 10; also read: I was even more right than I initially thought; also also, anyone concerned about skipping of the number 9 here, I think the 'X' naming convention saves you there—there will likely still be an iPhone 9 and a 10, but with numbers, at least in my opinion). Saved for last, this product was deemed important enough to warrant the highly regarded “One more thing…” lead in, which Apple has used sparingly in the course of its history. Tim Cook and the other executives who helped show off the new device threw around words like "revolutionary," "the future of the smartphone," and "game changing" throughout the presentation, and they were not wrong in doing so.
Apple packed into the iPhone X a number of new technologies that will make the phone one of the most advanced on the market when it hits stores in November. Sporting an edge-to-edge 5.8-inch Super Retina Display, the iPhone X runs on Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip, which Apple called their most powerful and smartest chip ever. The neural engine that the chip incorporates is capable of running up to 600 billion operations per second, the CPU is 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and it’s more efficient from a power perspective, giving users 2 additional hours of charge time despite the higher performance. The A11 Bionic chip, combined with the phone’s sophisticated front-facing camera technology enable the home-button-less device to deploy Face ID technology to unlock the phone, and it enables an exceptional on-device AR experience through the front and rear cameras. Additionally, the iPhone X (along with the 8 and 8 Plus) will support wireless charging thanks to the new all-glass design.
Two tough things to swallow about the new flagship device: price and release date. While the upgraded iPhone 8 and 8 Plus start preorders next week and shipping a week later, the iPhone X will start preorders at the end of October with the first shipments happening in early November—all likely due to the mid-summer production issues the phone faced. And the price, while no higher than it was expected to be, still stung a little when that $999 flashed up on the screen. It’s a dangerous price point we’re approaching with the smartphone industry, but apparently there’s no looking back now.
Extending Olive Branches
One thing that was nice to see throughout the event in various forms was Apple extending a sort of olive branch to other manufacturers and tech developers throughout the keynote.
With regard to the wireless charging in the new iPhones, Apple has a product that it’s working on—AirPower—but the technology won’t be ready until some time in 2018. In the meantime, Apple said it was working with current Qi (pronounced chee) accessory manufacturers to get their products in Apple retail locations so consumers can take advantage of the wireless charging functionality. Additionally, Apple said it’s working with those same manufacturers to develop their AirPower tech, which enables multiple products to charge on a single pad, into other third-party products.
The love extended beyond the Qi tech, though. Apple made a major play with their Apple TV upgrade that is sure to please television and other video manufacturers. Apple TV 4K, announced during the event, will have the ability to support 4K HDR content. That’s huge for a number of reasons from a content perspective. But perhaps most importantly is that it’ll introduce the idea of 4K HDR to the mass consumer market for the first time. More specifically, the A10X Fusion chip that’ll ship with the new Apple TV 4K will support HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, and Apple worked with all major movie studios to bring their content to iTunes in 4K HDR. And, they’re going to charge the same for 4K HDR content as they will for regular HD content, with existing purchases getting upgraded to 4K for free—a huge win for consumers.
A Few More Things…
Other big announcements included upgrades to the Apple Watch. The Series 3 was unveiled, including a model that will have cellular connectivity and will be available on all four major carriers in the U.S. Plan pricing details weren’t shared, but it’s expected that Apple Watch data plans will run similar to LTE-enabled iPads at somewhere around $10 extra per month.
Apple also introduced the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which were major upgrades to last year’s 7 and 7 Plus (this marks the first time in a while that Apple skipped the ‘s’ iterations). New features, beyond the aforementioned A11 Bionic chip, include the all-glass design, improved camera technology, wireless charging, Portrait Lighting mode, and ARKit support.