Updated on December 10, 2021
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, a milestone Apple noted at Tuesday’s big mobile device keynote. Details about the keynote leaked over the weekend; however, the keynote did confirm a lot of the leaks, and had its own surprises. (Though there wasn’t a “one more thing”-style closer like back in the Jobs days.) Below are my two cents on the keynote’s news, the first held in Apple’s new Steve Jobs Theater.
The Apple TV now supports 4K
The next version of the Apple TV, dubbed “Apple TV 4K,” will support 4K level high definition. Additionally, Apple’s upgraded all movies bought or rented in iTunes to 4K versions for free.
This makes Apple’s streaming device more competitive for those who’ve jumped to 4K. The free upgrade of iTunes purchases to 4K is also a nice gesture, and certainly a more pleasant surprise than Apple’s last iTunes-related one (though I didn’t mind the free U2 album, lots of others did).
Live sports are also coming to the Apple TV, along with the iPhone and iPad in a new TV app.
The Apple TV 4K goes on sale later this month for $179; still a lot pricier versus the cost of a Roku, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV Stick.
The Apple Watch becomes useful (as a stand-alone device)
Apple also announced the Apple Watch Series 3. It’s largely similar to the previous generation, except for one big difference: one version will offer cellular LTE connectivity built-in. This means the Watch can make and receive phone calls, as well as do most things requiring a data connection, on its own without bringing along an iPhone. However, you’ll still have to own an iPhone and pay for a cell phone number; there’s also possibly paying extra for the Watch’s own connection, depending on the carrier.
This marks a big change for the Watch. Until now, it struck me as an overpriced accessory of questionable usefulness, if it had to be tethered to an iPhone anyway. Now that it can be used separately from an iPhone, and on its own cellular connection, the Watch is a much more useful device, and not just a glorified Fitbit.
That said, the Apple Watch’s heart rate app will come with an improved ability to detect heartbeats, including irregular ones. A nice improvement from a personal health care perspective.
The new cellular Watch goes on sale September 15 for $399. The non-cellular version costs $329, and goes on sale September 22. The original Series 1 Watch also will stay on sale at $249.
The iPhone 8/8 Plus and iPhone X
The center of the event was the new iPhones. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are incremental upgrades over the 7 versions. (And yes, they’re still headphone jack-less.)
However, the biggest news of the day was the new iPhone X (pronounced “ten”), a high-end, luxury model. The 5.8-inch phone comes with an edge-to-edge OLED display dubbed the “Super Retina” display (2046×1125 resolution, 455 PPI).
Oddly, Apple’s pulling a Microsoft and skipping a version 9… I guess? Not sure what they plan to do for next year’s iPhone models. Also, after OS X becoming MacOS, we’re back to confusion over how the X is pronounced, as this “Joy of Tech” strip points out.
Among the other changes is that there’s no home button; instead, the iPhone X will use Face ID instead to unlock the phone. Apple boasted of the increased security over Touch ID, plus that one has to actually look (with eyes open) at the phone for the feature to work. In other words, waving a photo at the phone (or kids waving it at a sleeping parent’s face) won’t work. Of course, debate over the pros and cons (and privacy issues) over facial recognition will likely increase.
TechCrunch says the panels alone cost $125 each, which supposedly explains part of the phone’s high cost: $999 for a 64GB model. There’s also a bigger 256GB model available. Pre-orders start on October 27, with mainstream sales on November 3.
Unless and until these changes drift to the regular iPhone models, I don’t see the iPhone X making much of an impact on the general public. It’ll likely be something you mainly see celebrities (and well-off techies) brandishing, if not the fate of the gold-plated Watch.
The bigger impact on most buyers (for now) is an expanded iPhone line featuring eight phones: the iPhone SE (still around as the entry-level model); 6S and 6S Plus; 7 and 7 Plus; 8 and 8 Plus; and the X. This seems like quite a few models to offer.
Finally, there’s a new bunch of facial recognition-customized emojis on offer for the iPhone X, dubbed “Animoji.”
That’s most of the bigger points in this week’s keynote. A lot to offer, especially if you’re looking for a cheaper, slightly older iPhone model (with eight models to choose from).
What are your thoughts on the keynote news?