Today was Apple's annual September "Special Event" to show of the new iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2, and the all new AirPods. The event was held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, California at 10:00am PT.
The following are my first impressions and thoughts as I watched pre-recorded video stream from the Apple website.
This year's opening video is of Tim Cook joining James Corden for Carpool Karaoke (One Republic - I've Lived, Lynryd Skynyrd Sweet Home Alabama). Corden and Cook were joined by later joined by Pharrell Williams. I've never watched Corden's show, but it looks interesting based on this video short. I think this speaks a lot about Apple's future: Apple Watch, Apple TV and new, original streaming content, and of course, Project Titan. Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but we don't see a Mac, iPhone, or iPad in the frame.
Welcome and Updates
Apple Music Update
Carpool Karaoke will be coming to Apple Music early next year. Did we know that already? I knew of the partnership, but honestly, where Apple Music is concerned, I am tuned out.
Apple Music now has 17 million paying subscribers. That's up 2 million since the last update.
Tim mentioned that there have been 70 exclusives for customers to listen to new music on Apple Music. I wonder what is going to happen to that number over the coming year now that labels, specifically, Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge, is slamming the door shut on exclusives? I had the distinct impression over the last year that Apple, like every other streaming service, was trying to use exclusives as a way to draw subscribers.
It's been 10 years of the Apple Music Festival. Free steams from Apple devices. I probably should have been watching more.
App Store Update
140 billion app downloads since it's launch in the summer of 2008.
Apple is still the preferred platform for app developers with 2x the payouts over the Android platform. I don't see this changing in the next 3-5 years. Android is just a mess in terms of software updates and getting the majority of users on a current release. Tim will get to brag about this for years to come.
Nintendo is coming to iOS in a BIG way! Tim beams as he brings Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto on stage for the introduction. For me, this is a much, much bigger deal that Niantic's Pokemon Go coming to iOS.
Super Mario Run will be an iOS App Store exclusive. This is a major win for Apple. Super Mario Run will be yet another side scrolling running game. Even though it is not a port of Super Mario Bros. from the Nintendo consoles, it looks and feels like a sibling. I am so glad to hear that this game will be a paid up front game and won't resort to nickel and diming players for coins, time delays, and other scams that other endless runners and "freemium" games resort to. (I alway felt that this is where Rovio lost it's way with their Angry Birds games.)
Apple's education initiatives has always been in their DNA. I'm living proof of that. Much like the kids using these Apple //s, when I was in the forth grade, I was completely hooked on the Apple //e and Apple.
Apple is putting it's money where it's mouth is with free hardware for schools (Apple TV in each classroom), teachers (MacBook Pro and iPad), and most importantly, students (iPads). The big challenge here is to make sure that there are people in these schools that can put all of that hardware and software to good use.
As someone who has a career in IT because of Apple's education initiatives back in the 1980s, I'm glad to see the next generation of technology users and creators being given the same opportunities.
Everyone Can Code initiative teaches kids (and adults) how to program in Apple's new programing language, Swift. I gave both of my girls iPads that can run iOS 10 and Swift Playgrounds so that they can learn.
iWhat? Oh, iWork. Does anyone use iWork anymore? In recent years, I have felt that Apple keeps Pages, Numbers and Keynote around just to have some extra checkmarks on a requirements list somewhere in Apple headquarters. With inexpensive Microsoft Office 365 subscriptions, there aren't many reasons to not be using Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That said, I do think iWork documents can be make to look much more impactful than their Office counterparts.
Susan Presscott, VP of Worldwide Apps Product Marketing comes out to talk more about Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Real-time collaboration is coming to all editions of the iWork apps. Ok, live edits from the Mac, iPad and iPhone are impressive. But also throwing in iWork on the web - ok, that's a neat party trick. I just wish it hadn't taken so long to get here. Google's Docs, Sheets, and Slides and Microsoft's Office 365 web apps have been able to do this for a while now.
New Products Introduction
Apple Watch Series 2
Apple Watch was launched 18 months ago with a focus on notifications, Apple Pay, and fitness tracking. Apple is claiming that they are the #2 watch maker by revenue only behind Rolex. Apple Watch is the #1 fitness tracker.
Jeff Williams, Apple's COO, comes on stage to reintroduce watchOS 3.0 and it's key features, including Messages, Breath, and SOS. If you are into Pokemon Go, you may be excited that the game is coming to Apple Watch. After watching the demo, I'm still disinclined to download and play the game.
Apple Watch Series 2 has been introduced. In Watch Series 2, you can wear Watch in the water - swimming, surfing, or kayaking - up to a depth of 50 meters (164.04 feet). The speaker has been redesigned to eject water out of the speaker canal. Like walks and run, there will now be two new work outs for indoor pool swims and open water swims.
Apple's S2 SiP is now has a dual core CPU and a twice as fast GPU which, along with watchOS 3.0 this will really help speed up apps. There is also a new, brighter display (1000 nits) and a standalone GPS. To cool thing about Watch Series 2 with it's built-in GPS is that the GPS will connect very quickly with satellites (we'll see) and can also show you map data with color coded speed information in the Activity app on your iPhone. I like to walk and I think these new features will be enough to push me over the line to get a new Watch.
Apple Watch Series 2 will come in the same aluminum and stainless steel options as before and will include a new ceramic version. Over all, my Apple Watch Sport edition has held up better than I thought it would, but it does have a few hairline scratches on the display and the body has two small nicks. Maybe the ceramic, which is supposed to be 4x stronger than the stainless steel edition is for me. If the price is right.
Remember the Nike+ FuelBand? No? I don't blame you. Myself and three other people bought them before Apple Watch existed. Now, as part of Series 2, you can get Apple Watch Nike+ Edition. This is the logical conclusion for the FuelBand product, which I liked a lot, actually. Nike+ will be available in four colors. While I'm crazy about the bands, at least it is good to know you can swap them after your run.
The new Watch line up will include a "remixed" original Apple Watch, now called Apple Watch Series 1, with the same S2 processor as Series 2. The price will be $269 for Series 1 and start at $369 for Series 2. Both Series 1 and 2 Apple Watch models will become available for pre-order on September 9 (this Friday) and watchOS 3.0 will arrive on Tuesday, September 13. Both Series 1 and 2 will go on sale on September 16, and the Nike+ edition will follow in "Late October".
While I like the idea of Watch Series 2, at $369, I don't think that I am going to jump on the launch day band wagon. I like my Apple Watch, and I have worn it every day since I got it (except for a week in December when I forgot it at home while away on a business trip), I don't feel that I get $369 worth of value out of it. Like my iPad Air, I think my Apple Watch Sport edition is good enough for now.
Since there was no mention of the body size changing, I am left wondering whether or not the new Series 1, 2, and Nike+ editions will use the same quick swap lugs as the original Apple Watch Sport and Stainless Steel editions. I would assume so. And I think that leaves the door open to me getting a Series 2 Watch down the road if I can still use my existing set of six bands.
Apple iPhone 7 and iOS 10
Tim Cook quickly re-introduces everyone to iOS 10, highlighting Home Kit and updates to Messages.
Tim introduces the new iPhone 7 with a Johnny Ive video. We got a Johnny Ive narrated video! Phil Schiller comes out on stage to talk about the new iPhone 7.
Jet Black is the new high gloss color. Black now replaces Space Grey. Silver, Gold, and Roes Gold (don't call it 'pink') round out the color options. Navy Blue? Nah. Sorry Rumor Mill. I've always been a "black" iPhone guy and I don't think that will change this time around. Jet Black looks great in photos, but I think the "Just Black" version is in my future...maybe.
(By the way, is anyone else bothered by the fact that in the middle of the iPhone 7 introduction, the MacBook's spacebar and right Command key are not centered on the Force Touch track pad? I can't un-see this now. Sorry.)
The new "Force Touch" Home button seems cool. I won't have to worry about getting a mushy Home button like I did on my iPhone 4s. I will have to leave my final judgement until I get my hands on iPhone 7 before I can make any definitive rulings on this one.
I am excited that iPhone 7 is now water and dust resistant. Apple has been seen as "losing" against a handful of Android phones on this feature for a while now. I don't often worry about water and dust, but I am happy to know that those protections are now part of the enclosure. Falling in the pool, or the toilet (Come on! You were all thinking it too!) won't be a problem any more.
The camera in iPhone has long been the go to camera over point in shoots for years now. Optical image stabilization as a standard feature in iPhone 7 is a great move by Apple. Even the flash got an upgrade that throws 50% more light. I will want to see how much better low light photos are when taken with an iPhone 7 Plus over my current iPhone 6s Plus. The new Flicker sensor sounds like a fantastic upgrade too. And I'm sure that the kids are going to love the new 7MP FaceTime HD front facing camera for all of those ridiculous selfie and SnapChat photos.
Did someone just say "two cameras", "wide angle" and "telephoto"?! Sign me up for the iPhone 7Plus!
But, wait! Schiller has more! Shallow depth of field is coming to iPhone! This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but didn't know what the feature was called or how it was done. Sweet! All I will need to do now is to select the new "Portrait" setting in the iOS Camera app...coming later this year in a software update for the iPhone 7 Plus.
The Retina Display gets some nice upgrades too, but no True Tone from the iPad Pro 9.7". Bummer.
After using the iPad Pro 12.9" for eight months now, and watching TV shows on it, I am looking forward to having stereo speakers on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Apple EarPods...here we go! Begin Internet melt down! There is no 3.5mm headphone jack on that iPhone! Oh, wait! I already own a pair of PowerBeats wireless Bluetooth ear buds.
900 million Lightning devices in use today. JBL Lightning ear buds are held up as an example of Lightning ear buds that are available today. And, Apple will put a pair of Lightning EarPods in the box with iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Ok, so far, so good. AND...Apple is putting a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter in the box with iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Nothing extra to buy. Existing accessories will still work. Internet crisis averted. Case closed.
Apple has three reasons for taking away from the 3.5mm jack. 1. Lightning is a digital audio connection. 2. 3.5mm jack is over 100 years old and is taking up space that is needed for new technologies. It's time to be "courageous" and move on. 3. Wireless is the future of devices. I'm ok with all of those reasons. Oh, yeah, and AirPods. As in wireless.
AirPods are the wireless "vision" of what ear buds are supposed to be and are powered by a new SiP called the W1. The AirPods are introduced by a second Johnny Ive narrated video. I'm pretty excited about the automatic pairing feature of AirPods to connect with all of my Apple devices.
Bluetooth pairing has aways been messy and so has been moving my PowerBeats between my iPad Air and iPhone 6s Plus; so much so that I don't ever do it. Now, that problem is solved. Boom! One step setup with your iPhone. One. Step. One step. And with the magic of iCloud, once AirPods are paired with your iPhone, they can seamlessly connect to Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac. Sweet! Tangled up ear bud cables just became a thing of the past.
The W1 chip is also coming to the Beats Solo3, PowerBeats3 and the new BeatsX. I think I'll put off buying new Beats Solo headphones and try the AirPods first. They will go on sale in "Late October" for $159.
The new iPhones are going to be powered by the new Apple A10 Fusion SOC chip. This thing is packing 4 processing cores. Two super high speed and two "1/5 performance cores" that are going to extend battery life by optimizing on the fly which set of CPU cores to put processes on. The same trick works for the GPU too. It's going to be a while for Samsung to try and copy that. All of this adds up to an extra 2 hours of battery life on the iPhone 7 and an extra hour of battery life on the iPhone 7 Plus as compared to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Not too bad. I'm assuming those numbers include running on low power mode once the iPhone drops below 20%. That's great. On light use days, I'm already squeaking by on two days of use between charges.
Shocker!! The 16GB iPhone is GONE! The new entry level iPhone starts at 32GB, the 64GB gets replaced by the 128GB, and the 128GB is replaced by a new 256GB option. Wow! I was not expecting this at all. I go for the middle Plus model, so that means a very nice, very roomy bump from 64GB to 128GB. The iPhone 7 will start at $649 and the new iPhone 7 Plus will start at $749. Also, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are getting bumped to 32GB and 128GB models. Thanks, Apple!
Pre-orders go live for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus this Friday, September 9. And, if you are super excited for the new iPhone, we will only have to wait one week to get them on September 16! (And yes, if I can get in line crazy early to get my at 8am, you already know I'm going to do that.)
iOS 10 arrives on Tuesday, September 13, as expected, along side watchOS 3. Presumably, tvOS will go live on September 13 as well.
This year's musical guest is Sia who performed The Greatest. I'm feeling old because I have no idea who Sia is - and I didn't really like the song. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't as bad as the socially awkward U2 performance that gave us the Songs of Innocence train wreck. But let's face it, that's a low bar to get over.
Lots of new technology is this year's iPhone line up and I'm pretty excited for it. Nothing out there running Google's Android operating system can touch iOS 10 and iPhone 7. Clearly NOT the exploding Samsung Galaxy 7 Note.
So, to recap, I am getting and iPhone 7 Plus 128GB with iOS 10 and the AirPods. The new Beats Solo3 and Apple Watch Sport Series 2 are on the wait and see list.
In closing, I would like to quote James Corden from the beginning of the keynote as I think it is most appropriate for a fan boy like myself:
"This is it, bitches! Get in line!"