Apple’s September 2015 Event

I know the title says “September Event,” but this might have been Apple’s only event this fall.  That’s what sources were telling us leading up to last Wednesday, and it seems like they were right.  This event was jam packed, and did cover pretty much every Apple product.  So what all happened?  Let’s dive in:

Apple Watch
First comes the Apple Watch.  No Watch 2.0 here (it was, after all, just released in March), but there were a few new color combinations.  The Sport model now comes in yellow gold and rose gold aluminum.  In addition, there’s a whole slew of new bands, both colors and styles.  Finally, they briefly mentioned watchOS 2, but they didn’t give much of a demo.  To be fair, they had already demoed it at WWDC, but in the past Apple’s always given a refresher demo right before the release in the fall. For the people who had seen WWDC, it was a little repetitive, but it was probably still worth doing.  However, Apple had so much to talk about at this event that I guess they just didn’t have time.

iPad
Enough of the boring new-colors announcements.  Apple has released an enormous new iPad Pro.  It has a 12.9″ diagonal screen (compared to the iPad’s 9.7″ and the iPad Mini’s 7.9″) that looks like it’s going to be stunning.  It can run two apps at the same time, side by side (the same feature we saw demoed for the iPad Air 2 at WWDC).  For those in the business world, there’s a keyboard case; for those in the creative world, there’s a stylus, dubbed the Apple Pencil.  This new iPad won’t come cheap, however.  It starts at $799, plus $99 for the Pencil and $169 for the keyboard.  Other than the new iPad Pro, Apple also released a new iPad Mini (the 4th generation), with specs on par with last year’s iPad Air 2.  This was the first year we didn’t see a new regular sized iPad.

Apple TV
This was huge.  People have been waiting for this for years.  To drop the most important part on you in one sentence: The new Apple TV runs apps.  There’s an app store, which will include everything from entertainment channels to games.  Games can be played on Apple’s new remote.  It has motion sensors like a Wii Remote, a few buttons, and a small touch surface.  But most importantly, it also has a microphone.  That’s right, the new Apple TV has Siri.  You can use Siri to search for TV shows and movies from iTunes, Netflix, hulu, HBO, and Showtime all at the same time.  Pretty cool.  You can also ask Siri to show you the whether or sports scores in the middle of your show.  The thing that stuck out to me most, however, was that you can ask Siri, “What did she say?”, and it will skip back 15 seconds in your show and turn the captions on for just that 15 seconds.  Someone should’ve thought of that years ago.

iPhone
Yes, of course you’ve been waiting for it, there are new iPhone available.  There’s the iPhone 6s and the 6s Plus, in the same two sizes as last year.  They’re also available in a new color, rose gold.  This is an S model year, so there aren’t that many big improvements.  The biggest one is called 3D Touch.  As far as I can tell, it’s the same as Force Touch on the Apple Watch (in fact, Federighi accidentally called it that once on stage and had to correct himself).  This means that the iPhone’s screen now registers how hard you’re pressing on the screen.  This allows you to do cool things like preview links sent in a text message.  Press hard on the link, and it pops up in a little window.  Press even harder, and it pops to full screen.  Pretty neat.  The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus also have improved cameras, as usual.  They now shoot 4K video, which is cool, until you realize that Apple is still selling the 16gb model of the iPhone.  Let it go, Apple.

iOS
At the end of the iPhone demo, iOS got a short spot.  All it really had was a demo of 3D Touch; like watchOS, they just didn’t have time to redo the WWDC demo.  We did get a release date, however: Wednesday, September 16.

Oddly enough, the Mac didn’t seem to get any time at the event.  It’s not a surprise that there’s no new Mac hardware; we did just get that new Macbook back in March.  But I would’ve thought that they’d at least give 10 minutes to show off OS X El Capitan, and then announce a release date.  That would seem to totally wrap up the product line in a single fall event.  Apple’s website now says that El Capitan will be available on September 30, but I don’t think that was even said on stage (maybe I just missed it?).  Of course, it’s not like this event was lacking in news just because they didn’t talk about the Mac.  ••

Follow Up for Apple’s “Spring Forward” Event

In case you missed my post last week, Apple had an event last Monday.  We saw a lot of cool things last week, not the least of which was the Apple Watch.  Here’s a rundown of exactly what happened Monday.

HBO
I don’t think anyone saw this coming.  Apple lowered the price of the Apple TV (from $99 to $69) and announced an exclusive deal with HBO.  HBO’s new stand-alone streaming service, HBO NOW, will be available only on Apple devices (including the Apple TV) for the first three months.  This is huge.  HBO NOW has enormous potential to disrupt the TV industry, and this deal could really sell some Apple TVs.  Unfortunately, there was no much-need Apple TV update, but the lower price indicates that we might see one next fall.  (Also, the HBO presentation resulted in the most hilarious tweet I saw during the event.)

MacBook
As I predicted, Apple unveiled the newest version of their MacBook laptop line on Monday.  However, this isn’t technically a new MacBook Air.  Dubbed simply the “MacBook,” this new laptop is super thin and light, and yes, it does have a retina display.  The craziest thing about this laptop, however, is the fact that, aside from the headphone jack, it only has one port.  One.  Basically, in order to get the computer that thin and light, Apple had to remove all connectors except for a single USB-C.  This can be used to power the laptop or attach peripherals.  You can only do both if you buy an adapter (conveniently, Apple sells one for $79).  Apple’s argument here is that most things we connect to a computer can now be wireless, whether its a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard or AirPlay video out.  I’m not sure whether Apple will stick to this story or whether, in a year or two, they’ll figure out how to fit a USB 3.0 port in this thing.

Apple Watch
Obviously, the most important thing discussed at the event was the Apple Watch.  We saw some cool app demos (including Shazam and some connected home stuff), and we also got our answers regarding battery, pricing, and bands.  Before I talk about pricing, let’s cover battery really quickly.  Apple says that, during normal usage, you can expect 18 hours of battery from the Apple Watch.  This fits what they said in September, which was that the Watch would last all day and then you’d charge it every night.  As long as it really lasts all day (and not just barely all day), this should be OK for most people.  Now let’s talk pricing.  First is the Apple Watch Sport.  This model is $349 for the 38mm, and $399 for the 42mm.  It only comes with the rubber sport band, but you can buy the other bands and put them on the Sport.  Thing is, though, the other bands are $149 – $449, depending on which one you get.  The flagship Apple Watch model starts at $549 ($599 for the 42mm), and goes up to $1099, depending on which band you get with the watch.  Again, you can buy additional bands (including the sport one) and switch them out.  Finally, there’s the Apple Watch Edition.  This model starts at $10,000, will have limited quantities, and can only be purchased in certain Apple Stores (which will, I’m sure, provide a high-end jewelry experience).  Also, the Edition’s bands are not interchangeable; you have to pick one and stick with it (hilariously, the rubber sport band is still an option).  If you’re curious as to exactly what each model costs, you can see the full lineup of watches here and the additional bands here.  There’s also this really cool spreadsheet that a guy named Rob Griffiths put together with a bunch of stats (including the price) for each model.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, there were no mention of any iPads at this event.  Even still, this was a huge day for Apple.  I personally can’t afford an Apple Watch, but most everyone on my tech podcasts seem really excited about getting their hands on one.  Maybe in a few years the prices will come down a little and I’ll get one.  Only one other problem remains: I beat the heck out of my watch.  I know these watches are supposed to be sturdy, but I really don’t want to pay upwards of $400 for a watch and then just break it the first time I get a little clumsy.  ••

Predictions for Apple’s September 9th Event

I’m guessing you’ve heard by now, but Apple is having a huge event this Tuesday.  It is widely believed that Apple will release the iPhone 6, but what else does Apple have up its proverbial sleeve?  Here are my predictions.  Be sure to check back here Tuesday for a special follow-up post detailing what I did and didn’t get correct, as well as any other surprises I might have missed.

iPhone
It’s expected that the iPhone 6 will be announced at this event (though it probably won’t actually become available for purchase for another 7-10 days).  But perhaps a better term to use here would be iPhone 6es.  It is widely rumored that we will be seeing multiple, different-sized models of Apple’s popular smartphone.  The most recent models (5, 5c, and 5s) have all have a screen measuring 4″ diagonally.  I expect a 4″ iPhone 6, in addition to a 4.7″ model.  The other number floating around the internet is 5.5″, which does sounds awfully big.  I’m not sure how this one is going to play out, buy my guess is that the 5.5″ model is going to happen.  As for the “-c” product line, I don’t think we’re ever going to see that again.  My prediction is that Apple will simply continue to sell the iPhone 5s as a cheaper option.

iOS 8
After seeing it announced last June at WWDC, I definitely think iOS 8 is going to launch at this event.  Like the iPhone, it probably won’t go live until a week or so later, but I’m pretty sure we’ll get an official date Tuesday.

iPad
If Apple’s behavior last year is any indication, I don’t think we’ll see any new iPads at this event.  Assuming that they’re sticking to a pattern here, there will be another event in October, at which we will see new iPads.

Mac
Like the iPad, I don’t think we’re going to see any new Mac software or hardware at this event.  Most likely, we will see the release of OS X Yosemite, as well as some slightly improved Mac hardware, at another event later this fall.

iWatch/iBand
This one is tricky.  It’s been rumored for quite some time now that Apple will be entering the wearables market.  What’s unclear is whether the device will be a Pebble-style smartwatch, or a Fitbit-style activity tracker (or, most likely, some of both).  Given Apple’s new Health app that will be pre-installed in iOS 8, it’s not a crazy thought to think that this device could have a large health focus.  What’s odd is that we have seen zero hardware leaks for this device.  None.  This is really, really unusual – especially compared to the wealth of iPhone 6 hardware leaks.  Either Apple has seriously cracked down on secrecy or… the iWatch may be coming later, or not at all.  Even still, I’m going to say yes to this one.  I think the iWatch is finally going to be announced, though it’s possible it won’t ship for another couple months.

Apple TV
I’ve talked before about how awesome the Apple TV could be (thought it’s still pretty great as it is), but I don’t think we’re going to see anything about it at this event.  I’m hoping that there will be a major Apple TV update at an October Apple event, but I think doing something drastic now could steal the iWatch’s thunder.

Beats
After Apple’s purchase of Beats by Dr. Dre, everyone is expecting Apple to do something big with Beats (or something at all, really), potentially in the streaming music market.  That being said, I don’t think we’re going to see anything significant about Beats at this event, or even this year.  I do hope Apple makes a new bid into the streaming music business, but I think it’s going to take them a while to work that out fully.

iPod
Sadly, I think the iPod’s days are over.  Based on Apple’s current time frame, we ought to be due for new models this year (we got them in 2012 and 2010), but I don’t think it’s going to happen.  Granted, I think Apple is going to continue selling the iPod, but I think we have seen the last of new iPod models.  If, however, I am wrong, and we do see new models, I really, really, doubt we’ll see them again in another two years.

The Death of 16gb
This is really just a vain fancy of mine, but I hope the iPhone 6 doesn’t come in 16gb models.  16gb is feeling increasingly small, and I think it’s time for the $200 iPhone to come with 32gb of space.  Let it go, Apple.

The Great Unknown
The best part about this event is that, even though I’m pretty confident about much of what’s written above, there could be something entirely new and amazing that I have no idea about.  It’s all up in the air right now.  Be sure to come back here Tuesday for my follow up post to hear exactly what happened.  Better yet, why not subscribe so the post comes directly to your inbox?  That way, you can be the cool person around the water cooler (or on Facebook, there’s plenty of share buttons below) – the one who already knows all about that mythical iPhone 6 that everyone’s been talking about.  ••

The Hands-Free House

A while back our garage door opener broke.  After buying a new one, we discovered that it had a nice little feature: A motion sensor that turns the light on automatically when you walk into the garage.  After we got past our Beverly Hillbillies “someone left the light a-burning in there!” realization, we discovered that it’s actually a really helpful feature.  So helpful, in fact, that there are other rooms in the house that I walk into now only to be reminded that, “Oh yeah, I have to flip the light switch.”  So I got to wondering, what if I made a smart home, where everything in my house was automated?  What if I put every electric device in my house on a network and programmed them all to obey my every command, without my even having to command them?  Here are some imaginative scenarios from inside the Hands-Free House.

I wake up to my alarm going off.  But that’s not all I wake up to.  My lights slowly dim on, and different music plays depending on the day of the week (one less thing to think about first thing in the morning).  I sit up and say “Good morning” to a TV, which immediately turns on.  It starts scrolling the Apple TV Today View I’ve talked about before, showing me my email and twitter, as well as a weather forecast and a news ticker.  I roll out of bed, and as I walk to the kitchen, all required lights turn on, then off as I walk in and out of each room.

As I walk out the front door, the house checks to see if anyone else is home.  No?  The air conditioning lets the heat rise a bit, in order to keep those energy bills down.  The door, after confirming that I have my keys in my pocket, locks itself.  After I’ve finished my errands, my car lets the house know that I’m almost home, and the AC cools the house back down again.

After dinner it’s time for a little TV.  As I sit down on the couch, a small camera in the TV determines that it’s me sitting there (as opposed to another member of the family).  The TV quickly loads the shows that I like to watch, eliminating all hassle in the way of successful vegetation.  ••

My Wishlist for the Apple TV

My family owns two Apple TVs.  The Apple TV is a $99 set top streaming box that connects to your TV.  It can display content from iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and so forth.  There’s also a great feature called AirPlay, which allows you to stream from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac directly to the TV (this is basically the only feature my family uses).  All things considered, it’s a great piece of hardware.  But it could be so much more.  Steve Jobs once famously said that the Apple TV was just a hobby for Apple (since the market wasn’t quite ready for it).  Times have changed, however, and Tim Cook has said that the Apple TV isn’t just a hobby anymore.  There are lots of people hoping for big improvements to the Apple TV this fall, so here’s my list of features I’m hoping for.

1.  Third-Party Channels
Right now the Apple TV has different “channels,” which are very similar to apps.  For example, there’s a Music channel, a Movies channel, a Netflix channel, and the list goes on.  However, the only way for a company (such as Netflix) to get an channel is to work directly with Apple.  There is no SDK (software development kit) for developers to make channels on their own, and no store to download channels from.  In order for the Apple TV to really hit it big, this SDK and store need to happen.  For example, there is no Amazon Prime Instant Video channel on the Apple TV.  Therefore, we have to AirPlay from the Instant Video iPad app in order to use the service.  This works well enough, but it’s hardly ideal.  Opening up an SDK would also open up a whole new world of innovation.  Allowing developers to think outside the set top box could result in some really cool things, such as Apple TV games that use your iPhone as the controller (to be fair, some iPhone apps can already do this, but I’m sure it would work better if the Apple TV was more heavily involved).  Unfortunately, I don’t think this feature is going to happen this year.  If Apple intended to release an Apple TV SDK, they would almost certainly have to do so before the hardware was launched, so that there would be good channels available on the store the day it hit the market.  The perfect time to do this would have been at WWDC.  Since we didn’t see an SDK at WWDC, I don’t think we will actually see third-party channels this fall.

2.  A Real Cable Deal
My family has Dish Network.  Generally speaking, we’re happy with it, but there are a ton of channels we never watch.  As the Macworld Podcast’s Chris Breen noted, it would be awesome if Apple could partner with, say, Comcast, and have an Apple TV exclusive cable package.  This package would be relatively small, having only the most popular 30 or 40 channels (Discovery, History, AMC, etc.), but it would also be relatively inexpensive.  The key feature that really sets this apart from Netflix, however, is that it would also include locals channels – which of course includes local sports.  Live sports are arguably the biggest thing holding many people back from ditching cable entirely in lieu of Netflix.  I think my family would seriously consider switching to this Apple TV package.

3.  Supersized Today View
In iOS 7, there’s this really cool feature of notification center called the Today View.  Basically, it shows you your calendar, reminders, stocks, and the weather.  Even better, in iOS 8, third-party app developers will be able to create Today View widgets, to give you even more info (like sports scores).  Since the Apple TV is connected to a large screen, I think it has huge potential for this kind of glanceable information.  What I’m thinking of is a huge dashboard that you can look at first thing in the morning.  Instead of waking up and having to check four different apps to see how your day is going to pan out, you could just see one big screen on your Apple TV.  This would be similar to what morning shows do on The Weather Channel.  They have their main show playing in the majority of the screen, but there’s other stuff on there as well.  At the bottom is a news ticker; on the sidebar, a brief weather summary and flight delay information.  I would love to wake up and turn on the TV to see this dashboard.  I want a breaking news ticker on the bottom, and weather and traffic on the sides.  In the middle could be lots of boxes scrolling my texts, emails, Twitter feed, and so on.

And finally, I hope as much of this as possible will happen through software updates, and not hardware updates.  As cool as these features would be, I find it hard to believe my family would spend $200 to replace the two Apple TVs we already have.  Especially when most of us would probably benefit from watching less TV in the first place.  ••