Today Apple had a bit of a juggling act to pull off. The company had to introduce the biggest update to iPhone since its inception, while also releasing a standard cycle iPhone update and still make it seem desirable.
This is a hard task to accomplish, and at the end of the day, I’m not sure they succeeded.
Granted, I’m not sure they ever could have. If there is an iPhone X available, everyone that buys an iPhone 8 is going to wish they had the X. But, Apple did make a few moves to try and mitigate iPhone envy, and I’d like to start by going over those:
- The iPhone X is $999: While this was an expected tactic, it is also probably the most important. Charging a thousand dollars for an iPhone means most people won’t buy it, and Apple doesn’t want most people buying it. That’s because a) they won’t be able to make enough of them and b) the phone isn’t actually ready yet.
- It’s not coming out until November: This announcement was probably the most surprising for me during today’s keynote. While the iPhone 8 will come out on schedule, iPhone X will not be ready until November 3. I can say with a good amount of certainty that at the beginning of the summer, Apple had hoped to release the X at the same time as the 8. If I had to guess what happened, they realized they would be a bit delayed, and at that point opted to purposefully delay the device more than required, in order to push iPhone 8 and not have a shortage at launch.
While I’ll talk more about the phones individually later on, this was the thing I was watching for today, and I’m interested to see how the public reacts.
Apple Watch Series 3
I was extremely underwhelmed by today’s Apple Watch announcements.
That’s not a bad thing though.
It seems Apple entirely focused on incorporating cellular for Series 3, and I think they checked off every box they needed to do this right: same design, same price point, all four carriers (in the US).
One thing that did puzzle me is the strange decision to put a red dot on the Digital Crown on all cellular models. I’d be curious to know if there is a technical reason for this, but as far as I can tell its to let others know you have the cellular Apple Watch, and I think it looks really mismatched on most models.
Apple’s health initiatives continue to impress, and the heart study Apple announced today does seem very interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing Apple Watch grow in health even more in the future.
The only way Apple Watch becomes a legend in the history of technology is if it truly becomes the next-generation health companion.
If it fails to do so, it will be a footnote at best.
Apple TV 4K
I was also extremely underwhelmed with today’s Apple TV announcements, however in this instance it is a bad thing.
Apple is getting slaughtered when it comes to the set top box game, and the simple fact that this device still costs more than $100 is its biggest problem.
I have a lot of thoughts about if/how Apple will remain in the TV industry over the next decade, which I’ll hopefully write about in more detail over the next few weeks. While for tech nerds, the 4K features added today are truly unique, in general no one will care enough to spend $179 on this device.
The TV app still remains a great idea with iffy execution in my opinion. If they had added full Live TV support I would have been much more excited.
One good thing I will say about today’s TV announcements: 4K iTunes movies from six of the biggest studios, at the same price as HD with free upgrades. (One thing that surprised me though: where is Disney?). Also Apple will update your existing HD titles to 4K for free.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
As I said before, a lot of this segment had to make these phones seem really amazing, even though on paper they are standard updates. The glass backs are nice, though I wish they had gone for a metal bezel over the aluminum.
Apple’s camera team continues to amaze me with the new Portrait features on the 8 Plus (and X).
I was also very excited that Apple brought the True Tone display to the entire iPhone lineup, not just the X. When I first reviewed the iPad Pro 9.7 in 2016, I had said every device I own now seems crappy simply because they did not have a True Tone display.
True Tone is one of the best things Apple has ever done, and once you have it on an iPhone you wont be able to use any other phone.
Wireless charging appeared as expected. This is really just something Apple was behind on, most Android devices have had the exact same feature, with the exact same support and standards, for 3 or more years. It is nice to have though.
Lastly, as I reported, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus come exclusively at 64GB and 256GB, and the price has been pushed up $50. This is an obvious move for Apple, people won’t notice the price bump when considering options (especially with the existence of the X) and no one will complain about storage sizes anymore.
Something interesting that occurred to me as I was writing this; Coming in, I expected Apple to over-hype the iPhone 8 to mitigate the coolness of the X.
What happened in the end, I think, is Apple under-hyped the X while putting more into the 8 than I expected.
With the 8 featuring the same screen changes, processor, and essentially cameras, all that was left for the X was the design and Face ID, and Apple had to justify why those two things were worth $1000+.
And, I think they did a decent job. From what I see and hear, the X looks fantastic. The display is sure to be great, and despite the demo failure, Face ID appears to work well.
I will note that during The Verge’s hands on, Nilay Patel at one point unexpectedly points a locked iPhone X at an Apple representatives face, and successfully unlocks it. This is a bit worrying, as the feature is only supposed to work when you are giving it your attention, and could hypothetically lead to someone unwittingly unlocking their phone for law enforcement. Hopefully this gets fixed.
Once thing that impressed me was the addition of front-facing Portrait mode via the new sensors on iPhone X.
The front facing camera will now become the focus of camera improvements, we’ve essentially reached peak back camera.
I did not care about the notch until today, but now I do. I don’t mind it from a design perspective, but when content is in landscape on iPhone X, it looks absolutely disgusting. This notch has to have been a huge compromise for a company with a design team lead by Jony Ive. There’s no way it stays around more than a few years.
iPhone X starts at $999 as expected, and goes all the way up to $1149. This is digestible, but what’s egregious to me is the fact Apple Care now costs $200 for the device (and also now costs $149 for the Plus).
For people on the upgrade program (like me), that means this phone costs $1200, which is well into laptop territory.
iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7
Another thing that surprised me was Apple’s positioning of the rest of the iPhone lineup. Typically the company lowers the outgoing model by $100, which they did, but the two year old model is usually dropped.
This time however, the iPhone 6s remains, now starting at just $449, with the 7 starting at $549. $449 is an incredibly low starting price for an iPhone, and now iPhone SE starts at just $349. That is incredible.
The Steve Jobs Theater
Apple’s event was the first to take place at the new Steve Jobs Theater, located at the companies new Apple Park campus. The architecture on the building is amazing.
Attendees said AV in the room was spectacular, and the stream went down without a problem. If I had to guess, all Apple events are happening here from now on, except for WWDC.
There were a few smaller, but still notable announcements made today (some at the keynote and some more quietly) that deserve attention:
- iTunes for Mac and Windows no longer supports the App Store. This is the first big change we’ve seen to iTunes in a number of years, and shows Apple may be planning to refocus the app. Many ridicule iTunes for being a pile of non-responsive garbage in recent days, but a new focus on media may signal bigger changes to come in the future.
- macOS High Sierra is coming September 25. It’s important to note that the current builds of High Sierra aren’t doing so great. I’m surprised this is coming so soon, and a bit worried its not getting the attention it needs.
- AirPower: This is pretty cool, though I’m upset that it requires new accessories across the board. Would have been cool if we got a “Your Apple Watch has secretly supported this all along” type announcement. Additionally, Apple mentioned a new charging case for AirPods that is specifically meant for this accessory. I won’t be buying it if it’s more than $40.
- FastCharge: iPhone X seems to have a new feature that can charge your phone 50% in 30 minutes. I don’t understand how this would work and why it wouldn’t have gotten mentioned on stage, but if this is true it’s a game changer!
So, that’s me spitballing on today’s announcements. Thanks for reading. I’ll have some clearer analysis in the coming days here on AppletoolBox. I would love to read your comments and thoughts on what clicked for you and what left you wanting a little more.