A couple of friends have posted on my wall asking me to comment on yesterday’s Apple announcements. I guess I’ve set myself up as the guy for such tasks, so here goes…
I’m going to go in the same order as they did.
The Apple Watch update. To be clear, there’s no hardware “innards” update to the Watch. They’ve just added some new colors. However, they’ve released WatchOS 2.0, which is a dramatic improvement over 1.0. To try and put it in simple terms, with 1.0, apps ran on one’s iPhone and the results were displayed on the Watch, almost like a web browser. In 2.0, the app runs natively on the Watch, making full use of its hardware and graphics engines. I’ve been using it for about a day, and it’s much more responsive. The demo they showed on stage, of an app showing a patient’s live EKG, is a good example of just how powerful this tiny device can be. It is still a luxury item, and I would still suggest that the average person wait for the second iteration of the hardware. I love the Watch and think it has a bright future.
The iPad Pro. To me, this was the most underwhelming part of the show. It’s a 13” iPad, it’s incredibly powerful… but it starts at just $100 less than a MacBook Air (or the same as an Air in the Refurb Store.) If I’m going to spend that much on a computer, I want a computer, not a giant pad. If I want a pad, I’ll get a regular iPad. Now, if one is paid to draw professionally in some way, I’d say rush out in a buying frenzy, and don’t forget the Apple Pencil (their stylus.) For people who draw, this is an amazing tool. But for the average user, I say get a regular iPad or spring for an actual MacBook. This is my opinion.
The new Apple TV. This is exciting to me. Basically, Apple has stealth-introduced a new gaming console with an OS that’s used by literally 100,000 developers. On top of that, the rumor mill claims that they’re “this close” to striking deals with the major networks, which would make this a complete cord-cutting device. The implication during the presentation was that iPhones could be used as extra remotes, but that’s still not clear. It was also implied that the Siri remote was a universal remote. Also still a bit unclear. What is clear is that the Apple TV is no longer “a hobby,” that they’re now serious about it. I’ve entered the developer lottery to get one early, and I plan to port my games (and I have some thoughts about some other stuff) to it. Also, to be clear, it isn’t just for gaming. Any app on an iPhone or iPad can theoretically be ported to the TV.
The iPhones (6s and 6s+.) The dimensions appear to be the same as last year’s models. The internal chips are, as usual, dramatically faster. And the camera, as usual, is dramatically better. The two big new features are a rose gold model (because China,) and best of all, “3D Touch.” This is the same as “Taptic” on the Watch. It combines pressure sensors and tiny motors to give you the sensation of pushing INTO the screen as you press harder on it. If you’ve never experienced it, you’re in for a treat. This allows for some neat interface tricks, kind of like “right-clicking,” but for the phone. Obviously, this is a hardware thing, so it’s only available on the new models. If you’re due for an upgrade, I’d say it’s worth it. The Taptic engine is open to developers, so plenty of apps will be taking advantage of it. Also with the 6s and 6s+, Apple has invented Harry Potter pictures. When taking a photo, the camera grabs a second or so on either side of the actual shot and saves it (optionally, of course.) You can then view it using 3D Touch or use it as a moving wallpaper on ANY device, even a Watch.
And speaking of upgrades, almost as a throw-away, Apple announced their own yearly iPhone Upgrade Program. So, why does this matter? Well, all of the U.S. carriers now have month-to-month service options as opposed to two year contracts. Formerly, an iPhone was normally advertised as “$199 with a two year contract.” But the true cost of the phone was $650. So the carrier locked you in for two years and inflated the monthly price to cover subsidizing your phone. That’s the old way. Now, for example, with T-Mobile, I can get an iPhone 6s for $0 and pay $27 a month for 24 months. If I leave T-Mobile before I’ve paid off the phone, I have to pay the balance. It’s a zero-percent loan, basically. It’s just separating out the phone subsidy from the actual cell service. Okay, but here’s the difference with Apple: For what amounts to around $4-ish more per month, you get AppleCare+, AND you get to trade in your phone after ONE year and get next year’s model. This is better than the carrier plans where one has to pay off the balance of the old phone before getting a new one. If you’re lucky, you might break even when trading in the old phone. If you’re lucky. What’s the downside of the Apple deal? If you ever decide to leave the ecosystem, you’ll have to finally pay off that last phone completely. On the plus side, the Apple phones are unlocked and you can flit from carrier to carrier each year (I don’t think you can within the year, but I could be wrong. It could be that easy.) I plan on giving the program a shot. If you don’t feel the need to have new toys every year, a carrier plan might be better. But keep in mind that you’ll have to shell out $100 for AppleCare+ up front at the very least.
And finally, next week (Wednesday, September 16,) we get iOS 9. This will work on all the same devices as iOS 8 and iOS 7. I’ve been running it for over a month on my old test iPhone 4S and iPad 3 with no problems. A major goal of this release was to improve performance and smooth out rough edges rather than add tons of new features. Oh, there’s some nice new, like Siri’s ability to get search results from apps (once they’ve added that feature,) a more robust Notes app, transit info in Maps, and swipe gestures on the iPad keyboard for editing. But it’s mainly about speed and stability, which is good. It’s good to pause every once in a while and catch one’s breath. I’m going to do that right now.