Even though this is normally a highly anticipated event, the lead up to this year’s unveiling of new phones and gadgets from Apple has been even more hyped by leaks that had revealed much of what was announced.
As with all things Apple, this hasn’t actually dampened the enthusiasm for hearing about the real thing. It is almost like children still believing in Santa Claus even after seeing their parents putting the presents under the tree.
It is also a special year, being the 10th since the iPhone was first introduced. Each year, people wait to see something different enough to distinguish this model from the last.
In this regard, Apple did not disappoint.
The event was held at the Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple’s new futuristic campus, Apple Park. It opened with CEO Tim Cook paying tribute to the memory of Steve Jobs. Tim Cook also made mention of the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, possibly highlighting in that one single act how far Apple has come since the time of Steve Jobs.
Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts talked about new programmes being introduced into Apple’s retail stores including “Today at Apple” which will use a Creative Pro staff member who will work with the public on creating music, photography and other things that can be carried out using Apple’s products. Massive stores in Milan, Paris and NY City will be opened
So, what products were actually announced?
The Apple Watch is now the biggest selling watch in the world with a 97% customer satisfaction rating. The focus of the device on activity and fitness was highlighted by new features in Watch OS 4 that show more statistics about heart rate. The watch will now warn the wearer when their heart rate is elevated when not exercising or moving.
Apple are also starting to use heart rate data to alert wearers when they are experiencing arrhythmia, especially atrial arrhythmia that are often go undiagnosed.
The new watch, Apple Watch Series 3 has LTE cellular built in giving it independence from the phone. The watch will have the same number as the phone allowing independent calls and also the ability to stream music directly. The watch has a new processor that allows Siri on the watch to talk. There is a new altimeter sensor and bluetooth and wireless chip called W2. The watch has an electronic SIM card.
The watch size amazingly is unchanged from the Series 2. The Series 3 will replace the Series 2 and the Series 1 watch will still be available. The watch will launch with cellular in 11 countries including the US, UK and Australia with a variety of operators. The watch will also be available without cellular.
Apple TV 4K
The Apple TV is now capable of handling 4K and HDR video and uses the A10X chip that features in the iPad Pro. Interestingly, the Apple TV 4K will feature Netflix 4K if that is switched on and there is an Internet connection that supports it. Apple’s TV app showing live TV will come to Australia and Canada.
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are upgrades of the current iPhone 7 models. The back of the phones is now made of glass. The phones get screen upgrades, better speakers and a brand new chip the A11 Bionic. It has 6 cores with 2 high performance cores and 4 high efficiency cores. It has also has a new graphics processing unit (GPU) that speeds up graphics, handles machine learning tasks and also has an image signal processing chip that will allow image manipulation.
The camera sensors have also been upgraded with new features that allow different lighting effects when taking portraits including removing the background. Video has also been enhanced with real time processing to optimise the compression to reduce artifacts.
The biggest feature is that the hardware has been optimised to handle the new augmented reality (AR) features in iOS 11. This is going to be a big shift in what applications are able to do, far beyond the capabilities hinted at in games like Pokémon Go. New AR games are visually stunning.
The iPhone 8s will also allow wireless charging using the Qi standards which is already widely supported in existing products.
iPhone 8 will come as 64GB and 256GB models available on September 22nd.
iPhone X (Ten not X)
So finally, the iPhone X with a vertical camera arrangement and edge-to-edge front screen that features an OLED Super Retina Display that supports HDR.
The home button has gone using an upwards swipe from the bottom to get to the home screen. This is actually quite an intuitive way to replace the button.
Unlocking the phone is now done using Face ID, Apple’s new facial recognition technology. At the top of the screen there is a new strip called the TrueDepth Camera. This is a collection of different sensors including an infrared camera (IR) that does the facial recognition. The A11 Bionic chip has specific machine learning hardware called a neural engine that performs the recognition.
The facial recognition will still work if the face changes including wearing glasses, growing hair or not shaving. It is also very fast.
From a security perspective, the facial recognition will give a false positive result i.e. confuse another person’s face to be recognised as the owner’s, in only 1 in a million cases.
Apple has introduced Animoji, the ability to animate emoji characters using movement of your own face. Recorded Animoji can then be sent via the Apple Messaging app.
The dual camera is similar to the iPhone 8 Plus but features dual optical image stabilisation and a better OLED flash.
The iPhone X also features wireless charging. Apple is building a new wireless charging platform called Air Power that will allow the wireless charging of the iPhone, Watch and Air Pods through a new case.
The iPhone X will cost USD 999, will ship on November 3rd and come in 64GB and 128GB formats.
Authors: David Glance, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia