Yesterday was another big Apple event. The September Keynote started off on the right note, quite literally; Tim Cook belted out lines from Sweet Home Alabama with help from James Corden on a special episode of Carpool Karaoke, which premiers on Apple music in early 2017. Then the action moved on to more serious business, including the new iPhone, the next iteration of the Apple Watch, and the disappearance of a much beloved audio technology.
Unveiled (on Twitter before the stage): The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus
The two phones were supposed to be the showstoppers of the night. And they were, but some of the sheen was taken off the big announcement when Apple’s own Twitter account accidentally released the Tweet about them hours before they were unveiled on stage. Of course we were going to get the information in the Tweets a while later; it’s just worth noting that this time Apple leaked its own biggest announcement of the year. They responded by deleting every Tweet ever made from the Apple Twitter handle. Smooth.
Back to the phones…The iPhone 7 is 4.7 inches and the iPhone 7 Plus is 5.5 inches. They come in two new colors: black and jet black, which are an addition to the regular silver, gold, and rose gold options. A new four-core A10 Fusion processor powers the devices. Two cores are high-performance cores and the other two high-efficiency cores conserve battery life when required. The physical home button has been replaced by a force-sensitive button backed by Apple’s Taptic engine. That could mean fewer repair runs, since this new home button is less prone to wear.
The new iPhones will be available in 32GB, 128GB, and 256GB configurations (goodbye, 16GB iPhone). Pricing for the iPhone 7 starts at $649 for the unlocked model and the iPhone Plus starts at $769. Pre-orders kick off Friday (tomorrow, September 9th).
Two Cameras Are Better Than One
Confirming rumors, it was announced that the iPhone 7 Plus comes with a dual camera arrangement. That’s two 12-megapixel cameras acting as one to serve up 2x optical zoom—the true kind of zoom, not digital. The first lens is a 28mm-equivalent wide angle lens that’s also on the iPhone 7. The lens that makes the optical zoom possible is a telephoto lens.
Apple has also made some software updates to supplement the features of the new camera. The 2x optical zoom can be enhanced digitally to 10x, although that will result in a degradation of the image quality. There’s an inbuilt Bokeh effect that’s implemented using machine learning; the iPhone 7 Plus isolates people’s faces to produce a depth-map, then uses the depth map as information based on which it applies the blur associated with the effect. There’s also a software zoom that makes it possible to switch between different focal lengths.
The Apple Watch, Series 2
The new Apple watch comes with just enough spec upgrades to warrant the “next-generation” tag. A new S2 processor with dual cores makes the watch 50 percent faster than Apple’s first iteration. The screen is now twice as bright, which makes it easier to use outdoors. More importantly, there’s built-in GPS—a feature that jibes with Apple’s focus on fitness with the second generation.
It’s Apple’s positioning of the Series 2, rather than its feature list, that says a lot more about the product and Apple’s renewed vision for this class of device. When the Apple Watch launched a year and a half ago, it included a $10,000 gold version; it was intended to be as much a status symbol as it was a means to check the time and scroll through notifications. The highest tier Series 2 is a $1,499 Etoupe Swift Leather stainless steel edition. The pricing has become more conservative and so has the pitch. The GPS support, Nike+ model, water-resistance, and activity sharing are all updates that betray a shift in Apple’s own perception of its smartwatch from being a social statement to a more utilitarian accessory.
A Wild Pokémon Go for Apple Watch Appears
It looks like it has become impossible to keep Pokémon Go out of the spotlight, even at an Apple event. Niantic Labs announced Apple Watch Series 2 support for the game. Players will be able to use the smartwatch to locate Pokémon and find out when a Pokéstop is in the vicinity. Niantic also revealed some numbers; Pokémon Go has now been downloaded more than 500 million times. The combined user base has clocked 4.6 billion kilometers in their hunt for the virtual animals.
The original publishers of the Pokémon video games, Nintendo, also made an announcement at the event. The Mario brothers are coming to the App Store through a game called Super Mario Run. It’s the first traditional Nintendo franchise game made for smartphones. Creator Shigeru Miyamoto demonstrated how the endless runner game can be played with one hand, freeing your other hand to cancel your Apple Watch order.
At the Apple event, it was announced that iOS 10—which has been in beta the last couple of months—will release to the public on September 13. The new OS brings smart home accessories into focus with a single space to manage all Homekit devices called, Home. A features known as, Scenes will let users group devices and alter settings, or execute commands on all of them at the same time.
Siri has become smarter too. The voice assistant now has third-party app support, which means you can use it to book an Uber or make a Skype call without actually opening the apps. The Apple Photos app has been updated to compile slideshows automatically and also has a Memories feature to make accessing older images simpler. For Apple Music buffs, iOS 10 brings a redesign and Discovery Mix, a personalized playlist algorithm similar (on paper) to Spotify’s Discover Weekly.
In other Apple OS news, the new Mac OS Sierra will launch September 20th. It will finally bring Siri to the Mac.
And Finally, No More Headphone Jack
That’s right folks. We now live in a world in which iPhones come devoid of headphone jacks and headphone wires; you don’t even have a choice. Is this the Brave New World of which Huxley spoke? Quite possibly. Speaking of bravery, Apple senior VP Phil Schiller said it took courage to leave the headphone jack out in favor of the company’s proprietary Lightning interface. It’s a statement for which he has received plenty of flak. Apart from wanting to be courageous, the move has to do with Apple’s desire to make its phones more water resistant.
If you’re an Apple user who likes having music streamed straight into your ear, you have three options. The first is to use wireless Bluetooth headphones. The second option is to use Lightning-based wired headphones, since the new iPhones still come with the power port. Finally, the new iPhones are also going to come with a dongle that has a 3.5mm jack. You won’t be able to charge your new iPhone while listening to music using them, but hey, you could buy Apple’s new $159 wireless Airpods to solve that problem.