Few software and gadget-launch events in the world attract as much attention from general users and techies alike, as the annual September events of Apple Inc. The event, rather unfairly dubbed as the ‘iPhone 6S-launch event’ (for there were many other ‘monster announcements’ from the Cupertino company), was organized this year at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. While most of the announcements made at the event confirmed the speculations among the global software and mobile app development community, Tim Cook and his team sprung a couple of interesting surprises as well. Over here, we look back at some of the most important announcements at the very well-attended event:
- The 12.9″ iPad Pro arrives – The Apple CEO referred to it as the ‘biggest news in iPad since the iPad’ – and he could not have been more accurate. The 12.9” iPad Pro is billed to be a true breakthrough device from Apple, with the all-new A9X memory chip. According to hardware experts and app developers, the new iPad is likely to be around 80%-85% faster than the iPad Air 2 (the A9X chip is 1.8 times more efficient than the earlier A8X). Yet another high point of the iPad Pro is its screen resolution – which stands at a whopping 5.6 million pixels (2732×2048 display) – making it the Apple device with the highest resolution level. That’s right, it’s display is even crisper than the 15” Macbook Pro.
- More news on the iPad front – Apple might not admit it – but the flagging sales figures of the iPad is certainly a point of concern at the company. To set things right, the company has also released the iPad Mini 4 – a 7.9” inch device which is reported to be as efficient as the iPad Air 2. The new tablet is priced at $399, while the price of the older iPad Mini 2 has been slashed to $269. The iPad Pro, understandably, is a much more expensive gadget (the 32GB model costs $799, while $1099 has to be forked out for the 128 GB edition).
- iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are finally here – Continuing with its now-familiar ‘tic-tac’ strategy, Apple released the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus handsets – with a slew of new and interesting additional features. The 3D Touch feature, in particular, has found favour among iPhone app development experts worldwide. The improved camera specs (the front camera has been bumped up from 8MP to 12MP, while the rear camera is now a more-than-decent 5MP). While the screen sizes of the new phone and phablet is the same as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus respectively (4.7” and 5.5”), the new A9 processor is likely to make it a significantly faster. The Ion-X glass display – similar to the one used in Apple Watch Sport – will add to the sturdiness of the handsets too. Preorders for iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have already started – and the response has been, predictably, big. The Rose Gold iPhone 6S Plus has, in fact, already sold out in Hong Kong!
- Apple Watch becomes more stylish and practical – At the September 9 event, it was also highlighted how Apple was planning to build on the success of its first foray into the domain of wearable technology – the Apple Watch. Jeff Williams, the senior VP of Operations, spoke about the series of new bands for Watch – focusing particularly on the Apple Watch Hermes collection. Three new leather bands have also been made available to users who prefer more customization in the appearance of the gadget. At the entry-level, Gold and Rose Gold editions of Watch are the most noteworthy additions (their prices are the same as the black aluminium and silver models). For WatchKit app developers, the new watchOS 2 platform opens up a wide range of possibilities. It was also announced that the Watch App Store already has in excess of 10000 applications.
- Smart Keyboard for the tablet – Phil Schiller did show off the built-in software keyboard of iPad Pro – but more interesting was the announcement of the ‘Smart Keyboard’ – one of the several accessories for the much-hyped tablet. Two points about the Smart Keyboard stand out – firstly it doubles up as a cover for the iPad Pro (think: Apple Smart Cover), and secondly, it can be used to make the tablet stand at various angles. The only question that remains is, will users other than hardcore Apple-fans be willing to shell out $169 for it?
- New operating system for Apple TV – Yes, there has been (finally) a new Apple TV as well, but more on that later. First, let us focus on tvOS – the exclusively app-based operating platform for the digital media player device. Jen Folse, the senior design producer at the Cupertino tech giant was in charge of displaying the features of tvOS, and a large number of leading television service providers – from HBO and Netflix, to Hulu, Showtime and Disney – have already pledged support to the platform. Most Apple software and app developers expect that the video streaming capabilities supported by tvOS will be truly cutting edge.
- All hail the Apple Pencil – There had been a buzz about the iPad Pro from months before the event – but hardly anyone had predicted that the device would be bringing back styluses (which were famously trashed by none other than Steve Jobs) in focus. With the announcement of Apple Pencil, a $99 stylus for the new tablet, Apple has indeed sprung a surprise. Pencil has been designed to take precision drawing to an altogether new level, and it can be used with a finger as well. The only bone of contention might be whether owners of older Apple tablets will be interested in buying Apple Pencil (most of them probably already have styluses) or not. The iPad Pro, together with Pencil and Smart Keyboard, ships in November – and before the year is out, we will have an idea about whether these two accessories are successful.
- The fourth-generation Apple TV – It has been long overdue, and at the September event, the fourth-gen Apple TV was finally announced. Displayed by Eddy Cue (Internet software and services VP at Apple), the new Apple TV has slightly larger physical dimensions than its predecessor. What’s more, the new video-streaming device (which will run on tvOS) will double up as an interactive gaming console as well. Crossy Road and Beat Sports were some of the games showcased on the new Apple TV – and it should only be a matter of time before third-party iOS app developers start making custom games for the device. The replacement of the slow A5 processor with the considerably faster A8 chip (64-bit) is yet another feature that should give Apple TV a boost.
- Siri Remote for Apple TV – The high-end Siri integration of the latest iteration of Apple TV has been a major talking point among all Apple-enthusiasts. The innovatively designed remote is black in colour and its upper portion is a glass touch surface – for easier swiping gestures. The Siri Remote can be voice-controlled as well – with the digital assistant being smart enough to understand and carry out very specific commands (for instance, a particular episode of a sitcom with a certain celebrity in it). The search capabilities of Siri include all app information for the device, and the remote also boasts of a gyroscope and an accelerometer (not to mention the advanced volume control options). Tim Cook stated that the ‘future of TV is apps’ during the event, and the 4th gen Apple TV is an example of how television-viewing experience is likely to be in future.
- Live Photos on the new iPhones – This feature merits a separate mention. Not only have the camera features of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus been improved upon in the ‘S’-upgrades – a new functionality, called ‘Live Photos’, has also been included. Whenever a picture will be taken, the device would record a 90-second video before and after the actual photo. That, in turn, will bring a feel of continuity to each photo that users click. No more staring at still photos!
- Apple Music app on Apple TV – There has not been much noise about Apple Music since its launch earlier this year – but things are set to change soon. The new Apple TV will have the Music app, providing users with a vast range of options – right from creating custom music libraries and playlists, to checking out the Beats One radio services. Apple Music on the media player device will function in the same manner as its Mac and iOS version does.
Split-screen multitasking will be one of the best features about the iPad Pro, running on iOS 9 – the new mobile platform from Apple (final release scheduled on September 16). The memory space (RAM) of the new line of phones has also been pulled up – to 2GB for iPhone 6S/6S Plus and 4 GB for iPad Pro. By the end of 2015, it has been projected that the new iDevices will be available in 130+ countries. OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) will also be releasing this fall.
Last year, Tim Cook’s ‘one more thing’ created a lot of ripples – for it was all about Apple Watch, the company’s very first wearable device. This time, there was no such surprise final announcement – and the event drew to a close with a lively performance from rock band One Republic. Over the next few months, it will be fascinating to see how well (or otherwise) the new Apple gadgets find acceptance among users, and how iOS app developers gear up for making apps for the iOS 9, tvOS and watchOS 2 platforms.