Apple just wrapped its latest product announcements, so I thought I’d hop on my blog and write up a few of my first impressions. There’s a lot to talk about, as you might’ve guessed, so this blog post might be a little heavy in the word count department. Overall I’m pretty excited about what was announced today, but keep in mind I haven’t seen, touched, or used any of these devices yet, so these opinions are based solely on today’s broadcast and nothing more. You should do your due diligence and read full product reviews before making any purchasing decisions for yourself. Now, that being said, let’s talk about all the shiny new things!
There wasn’t much talk about Apple Watch today, but it did lead off the announcement, so we’ll start there too. There were a few new watch models announced today, including an Hermès edition and two new sport models in rose gold and gold finishes. There were also several new watch bands announced today including a new Product (RED) band and new band colors: dark blue, light gray, and pastel blue. Apple also announced that watchOS 2 would be available for download on September 16th.
Overall the Apple Watch announcements weren’t that exciting, really. If you’re an existing Apple Watch owner, the new bands might be of interest to you, but the main thing to focus on here is the release and new features of watchOS 2, which Apple did a great job of showcasing during today’s keynote. I highly recommend watching the replay if you didn’t catch it live, so that you can see for yourself some of the new awesomeness that’s coming to the watch in a few weeks.
This was the announcement that everyone had been waiting for, including myself, the long-rumored iPad Pro. Well, I’m happy to say that it is indeed a real thing and it is loaded with awesome new features and accessories, but it is my opinion that it is NOT a pro-level device. More on that in a moment. Let’s talk about the device itself first. The iPad Pro will have 12.9″ screen, sport an A9X processor, 10 hours of battery life, and weight just 1.57lbs. The screen resolution will be 2732×2048 and contain 5.6 million pixels, which is more than even a 15″ Retina MacBook Pro if you can believe it. The iPad Pro starts at $799 for the 32GB model, $949 for the 128GB model, and $1079 for the 128GB + cellular model. Nope, that’s right, no mention of a 256GB model whatsoever. Bummer.
In addition to the device itself, there are also two new accessories to talk about, the Apple Pencil and the new Smart Keyboard. The Apple Pencil is said to have built-in sensors that detect position, force, and tilt which make it easier to create thinner or thicker lines while drawing on screen. The Pencil will recharge direct on the iPad Pro device with a built-in Lightning Connector as well, so there’s no need for a standalone charger or USB cable, which is a nice touch. The Smart Keyboard Cover mimics the keyboard of the new MacBook in many respects and connects to the iPad Pro via a new Smart Connector. When the keyboard is plugged in the software on the iPad Pro adapts accordingly to remove the on-screen keyboard, much the same as it did in the past with third-party bluetooth accessories. The Apple Pencil will cost $99 and the Smart Keyboard Cover for iPad Pro will cost $169.
Ok, now that we’ve got the announcement part out of the way, let’s discuss this device and why I don’t think it’s worthy of the name Pro. In traditional computing terms, when you attach the word pro to something it means that device is meant for business and/or creative professionals who need an extensible, powerful machine in order to do what they do for a living. Look back at Apple’s product lines through the years. There has always been a consumer-level device (i.e. the MacBook) and a pro-level counterpart (i.e. the MacBook Pro). The pro devices almost always have better specs, more ports, easier configurability, etc. In theory, the iPad Pro fits this model perfectly. After all, it has a bigger screen, more RAM, a faster processor, and these new accessories and features. That, however, is not the problem.
The problem, quite simply, is iOS. Apple excels at dead-simple, consumer-friendly hardware and software interfaces. The best example of this is iOS. If you ask anyone to pick up an iPad or an iPhone, even if they’ve never used one before, and you let them tinker with it for a few minutes, they’re going to figure it out. It’s that easy. However, what makes iOS great for consumers is also what makes it terrible for professionals. The operating system is too simple and not capable of delivering a true desktop-caliber experience when it comes to apps. Many people say that this could be fixed if only developers would devote more time to developing more complex apps, but that’s simply not true. Developers are handcuffed by the limitations of iOS. The limited access to its file system and general computing practices of the OS make it almost impossible to deliver a true conversion of complex applications like Photoshop on an iOS device. Take Adobe for example. They’re trying so hard to push people into a mobile workflow, but look at how they’re having to do it. Adobe is releasing a whole suite of apps that boil down to nothing more than a single/couple of Photoshop feature(s) wrapped in unnecessary individual wrappers. That means for a professional to do real work on an iPad, they have to jump between 4, 5, even 6 apps at a time just to do what one application could do on the desktop. The fact of the matter is that the professional workflow within iOS is just too limited and fragmented for it to ever catch on with real creative professionals.
So, what would make the iPad Pro worth of its name, you ask… Well, that’s easy, a touch version of OS X. That’s it. The only way I think you’re going to overtake the Microsoft Surface Pro and the like, is to give users a true desktop experience in one of these tablet devices. Don’t get me wrong, I think the iPad Pro is an amazing device, and I’m sure as hell going to buy one. But I won’t be using it to do any heavy lifting. I have a Mac Pro for that. The iPad Pro will almost certainly take the place of my laptop when I’m traveling, and it’ll be my daily driver around the house when I don’t need to use pro apps like Adobe Creative Cloud or Logic. For many people I think the iPad Pro will eliminate the need for a traditional PC, and truthfully that’s probably what it is designed ultimately to be, a PC killer. I guess what it boils down to is that Apple and I (along with a lot of folks on Twitter today) have a very different definition of what the word pro means. I’ll just have to adjust my expectations accordingly.
The next item on the docket is Apple TV. For many years Apple has said that this product was a “hobby” for them. I think it’s somewhat ridiculous to call a multi-million dollar business a hobby, but I digress. I’ve been an Apple TV user since version 1, and with every iteration it seemed to get better. However these past few years the Apple TV seemed to get a bit long in the tooth. Apple continued to add channels and services to it, which made you aware of the fact that they were actively working on it, but they never really changed the interface or hardware much. Well, that all changed today. The new Apple TV is here, and I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised at everything I saw on stage today.
The new Apple TV has a similar design to the older model Apple TVs, but it sports all-new internals, a new UI, an app store (finally), and a whole new operating system called tvOS. The main feature that Apple showed off on stage today was the integration of Siri. The Siri service seems to be the heart and soul of the new device, and it allows you to speak very conversationally to your Apple TV in order to queue up the content you’re looking for. There’s also a new remote, which is slim, black, and completely redesigned. The remote connects to the Apple TV via bluetooth, charged via a built-in Lightning Connector, and has the ability to control volume, power, and input switching on your TV, which is a huge improvement over the useless aluminum stick that previously shipped with these devices.
The biggest addition for me is the new App Store for Apple TV, which will include some awesome new games and even home shopping capabilities. Crossy Road was demoed on stage and the developer showed off a new multi-player mode that looked absolutely amazing. The apps on Apple TV are universal, which means you can buy an app once and be able to use it on any of your iOS devices. This is very similar to the Mac App Store, and it’s a huge win for consumers. The Apple TV will cost $149 for the 32GB model and $199 for the 64GB model. I’ll be going with the 64GB model because I’m betting that a lot of the new games for Apple TV will be quite large in size. I’m also hoping that more media services like Netflix and Hulu will add offline viewing capabilities, so I want to make sure I future-proof my Apple TV for when/if that ever happens.
This is just the beginning for Apple TV. There was no mention of the long-rumored Apple streaming service, which I full expect to happen in the near future, and there weren’t a lot of third party apps shown off because the SDK hasn’t been made available to developers yet. Once the ecosystem has time to mature the Apple TV will become the centerpiece of every Apple-connected home. Especially if they add in support for HomeKit and other services that help you automate devices around your home. I look forward to the day that I can walk in my house and have a conversation with Siri via my Apple TV. I want to be able to dim the lights, turn on the tv, and light the fireplace all with the sound of my voice, and it appears that Apple made the first step towards that reality today.
The final items to debut at today’s announcement were the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, and as expected, they’re pretty sweet too. The phones come in the same sizes as the previous model 6 and 6 Plus devices, but they do have a new rose gold color option this time around. They will run on the all-new A9 processor, making them up to 70% faster than previous models.
The biggest addition to the phones, however, was the camera upgrade. Apple finally ditched the 8MP camera of old and introduced a new 12MP iSight camera on the back and a 5MP front-facing camera as well. With the new camera also comes the capability of creating 4K video with your iPhone and something new called Live Photos, which allows you to capture 1.5 seconds of motion in a scene, making it easy for you to relive the moment in which you capture the original image. These aren’t videos though, they’re photos. You press an hold on the photo to view the video-like capture temporarily. I haven’t read much on this technology, but it was suggested to me via Twitter that this might be a variant on the animated GIF standard. I’ll know more as I continue to research this, but for now it looks like an interesting feature, and I’m excited to learn more about it.
I was curious how Apple would handle the pricing of the iPhone this time around as most carriers in the United States have done away with two year contracts and phone subsidies. While they did list 24 month contract pricing, which remains at the usual $199, $299, $399 price for iPhone 6s and $299, $399, $499 for 6s Plus, Apple also debuted a new “iPhone Upgrade Program” which will be exclusive to its retail stores. With the iPhone Upgrade Program you’re allowed to get a new iPhone every year (Yay!) as long as you pay $32 per month. That price includes AppleCare+ as well, which was previously a separate purchase you had to make. The phone you buy will be unlocked and you’ll be able to select the carrier of your choice for service. This is by far the easiest way to make sure you always have the latest and greatest iPhone, and it’ll be the way my family buys iPhones going forward.
iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan
There wasn’t much talk about the new mobile or desktop operating systems today. For more info on that you can go back and watch the WWDC keynote. There were, however, release dates announced for both iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. iOS 9 will be available to the public on September 16th, and OS X El Capitan will release on September 30th. Both are free upgrades for existing iOS and Mac OS X users.
As per usual, I’m pretty excited about the new Apple products, and I think overall this is one of the most exciting and satisfying Apple product announcements I’ve seen in quite some time. I’ve always said that the magic of the MacWorld 2007 keynote would never be duplicated, but I think they came close to that level of excitement, at least for me, today. As I said, I’ll be purchasing each of the new products released today and I’ll probably do some unboxing and product reviews here on my blog and on my YouTube channel. Thanks for stopping by and checking out this article. If you have questions, comments, or just want to say “hi” please follow me on Twitter.