Last Tuesday (September 12) was one of the best days of the year for tech aficionados and Apple fanboys/cultists like myself, the new iPhone presentation event. The first to be held in the new Steve Jobs Theater, housed in the newly-christened Apple Park campus, the event had all of the usual nooks and crannies you would expect of any Apple keynote, but did the buildup to the event live up to the expected hype, as the kids would say? Well, let’s run down what was announced and grade as we go along.
Out first was the Apple Watch Series 3 introduction, which came with a pretty small update to the device: LTE cellular connectivity. Connected with an iPhone telephone number, users will now have cell access directly on their watch, as well as Apple Music access, which I found to be pretty nice. The Series 3 Watches start at $329 for a non-cellular model, and $399 for the cellular ones, while the Series 1 line gets bumped down to $249. I’d say the market for smartwatches is getting very close to commodity-level, I’d say wait it out a little bit longer and see where things go for Series 4, but regardless, the added LTE connection is a big step up in its competition with other smartwatches, such as the Android Wear line of devices.
And just imagine being the cool kid on the block, listing to tracks off of Apple Music on your new Apple Watch with your fancy AirPods or your Beats Studio 3 Headphones.
[shill shill shill]
Then came some news about Apple TV. It was a simple bit of news, in that the new model of Apple TV will have 4K HDR output built in, supporting both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, the first of any set-top device, along with 4K streaming support from Netflix and Amazon. Awesome stuff. And then they sweetened the deal by announcing 4K films will be available on iTunes, not only to people who have HD purchases automatically and at no additional charge, but also available on their release at the same price as HD. That’s a sweet deal, and it’ll make the 4K TV market a bit more palatable for people looking to upgrade. Under the hood, the processor has been upgraded to the A10X fusion chip, and the new box has been upgraded with HDMI 2.0a and Gigabit Ethernet connections, very nice.
I’m a fan of the minor details nobody else cares about, you see.
The pricing is fairly reasonable for Apple standards, the 32GB model prices at $179, with the 64GB model coming in at $199. The current-gen 32GB Apple TV is getting a nice price cut, as well, down to $149; take it from an Apple TV owner, it’s really that great of a set-top box.
The Apple TV presentation carried on with some software updates, notably the inclusion of live sports on the home page, as well as additional support from many international television providers and services. There was also an appearance by Jenova Chen, the man in charge of thatgamecompany, to show off a new game coming first to iOS and Apple TV, a game called Sky, looking very similar in style to their other games Flower and Journey in that everything is very minimalist and atmospheric, and the game will even have online support for up to eight players in a game. Whether or not this will make its way to consoles (coughcoughPS4) in the future is to be determined, but for the time being, this is an interesting grab for Apple.
Then came what everyone was waiting for, the new iPhone reveal… or rather, reveals. First came, as expected, the iPhone 8, ditching its aluminum casing in favor of a new glass casing. Off the bat, let me just say, to everyone from the front row to the cheap seats in the back:
BUY A FRIGGING CASE.
You don’t know how fragile these things are until you see someone with a busted iPhone screen with cracks up and down. An Otterbox is a wise investment, friends.
Anyway, the glass casing serves another purpose, as Apple has FINALLY gotten on board with this whole “wireless charging hub” thing. A couple years late on that, Apple, even though y’all stick with the “fools rush in” mentality with Samsung and the like. However, to be fair, Apple is going with the Qi wireless charging system for this gambit, which has widespread support through third-party peripherals. Apple could’ve gone with their own proprietary system, let’s be glad they didn’t. Sadly, the headphone jack isn’t coming back. Womp womp.
Under the hood, the iPhone 8 has the usual minor upgrades you would expect, from the processor to the camera, and the phone comes in a few flavors: color options of gold, silver, and space gray, size options of 4.7” and 5.5” (for the 8 Plus), and storage options of 64GB and 256GB. You may not need that much storage for your phone, but that does leave a LOT of room for photos and 4K video. Prices start at $699 and $799 for each 64GB model, as well as $849 and $949 for the 256GB models. Carriers will also offer monthly lease arrangements, so expect anywhere from $25-$50 added onto your phone bill for this.
Reminder: subsidized contract prices aren’t around with major carriers anymore. You either pay in full or pay monthly. It sucks, but that’s what the people want.
But then, in a “one more thing” tease we haven’t seen in a long while, the rumors and leaks were made official with the unveiling of the new flagship that is the iPhone X. (that’s 10, by the way)This behemoth of a device sports a top-to-bottom and edge-to-edge 5.8” OLED display, packing in a whopping 2436×1125 screen resolution and HDR visual support. A bit unnecessary for a mobile phone, but hey, it’s neat to have. With this new device, the home button has been taken away, in favor of “Face ID,” a facial tracker and scanner. Welcome to the future, kids. Enjoy your face scanning and recognition alongside your new “animojis.” (That hurt to type) I won’t get too deep into the impracticality of the iPhone X UI, as Quinn of Snazzy Labs already did a video detailing everything about it, which you can see right here.
Then came the price. Are you ready for this?
$999 for the 64GB model, and $1,149 for the 256GB model. Remember, no subsidized contract prices, either. This is the price we have to pay for Apple’s continued competition with LG and Google and especially Samsung. It’s gonna be a head-to-head fight between the iPhone X and the Galaxy Note 8, two overpriced monoliths duking it out for our last dollar.
Verdict: thumbs in the middle
In short, the best parts of the iPhone keynote were everything but the iPhone announcements. The added LTE connection with the new line of Apple Watch devices is gonna be a seller, as will the 4K HDR output on the new Apple TV. But the new iPhone line? I don’t see anyone but the most diehard of diehards lining up to upgrade on day 1. Me, I have a two-and-a-half year old iPhone 6 Plus, and it still works like a charm, so I’m in no real rush to upgrade, especially since you have to either pay everything upfront or start a lease agreement.
In all, this was the usual Apple keynote people have come to expect in the post-Steve Jobs era of the company. Fans will applaud, detractors will mock, minor upgrades will be seen as special revolutionary advancements, and I can’t wait for the next one.
What? I like these things.
(P.S. enjoy the free advertisement, Apple)