Yesterday, in a tightly choreographed two-hour keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled a large selection of new products for their fall lineup, targeting both consumer and enterprise alike. Skipping over the usual updates to the company, Cook dove straight into the Apple Watch, the first of four acts of the keynote, demonstrating there was no time to waste and much to show.
First up, Apple gave a brief demo of the new features coming to watchOS 2, an update to the Apple Watch which will bring native apps to the watch with new features and capabilities. Native apps will launch and run faster now that they are running on the watch itself instead of communicating actions back and forth to the phone. Developers now have the ability to write apps on the watch that don’t require the phone at all, a key requirement for health and fitness tracking apps. Those apps can also tap into the heart rate sensor in real time, which was demoed with AirStrip, to monitor maternal heart rate on the watch during a typical fetal heart rate test with a special device, so doctors could analyze information from both at the same time. A new selection of sports and leather bands in fall colors was also announced, along with a partnership with luxury maker Hermes for special bands and watch faces. With watch OS 2 and a refreshed watch lineup, Apple is poised to make a strong push in the holiday season to make Apple Watch a successful product.
Next, Tim Cook announced the long rumored larger “iPad Pro”, a 12.9″ iPad with optional stylus and smart keyboard. Performance was touted as being double what the iPad Air 2 was capable of, with demos from 3DMedical and Adobe showing off its capabilities. Speakers along every corner of the device ensure the best sound quality possible at a loudness not expected for the device’s size. iOS 9 features like multi-tasking both Slide Over and Split View show they were designed for an iPad with significantly more screen space, allowing for an increase in productivity with updated apps. Speaking of productivity, for the first time since 1997, Apple brought a Microsoft representative on stage, who demoed an updated version of Office for iPad running on the new iPad Pro. Word and Excel were both running at the same time, while typing on the Smart Keyboard, a smart cover with integrated keyboard that also acts as a stand while typing. This event shows a renewed relationship between the two companies — that fierce competitors can still be cooperative with each other which many will appreciate. Apple has for quite some time strongly pushed the productivity angle of the iPad, and demonstrating apps such as Office and Adobe Creative Cloud apps are key to its future.
In addition, one unique thing about the iPad Pro is indeed its support for an optional stylus dubbed “Apple Pencil”. This device allows for pixel accurate drawings on the iPad Pro’s screen surface, measuring not only position, but speed, angle and force of swipes and strokes which artists will love. The Pencil uses special sensors in both the tip of the device and the display of the iPad Pro as well as predictive touch/stroke capabilities in iOS 9 to update the Pencil’s position up to 240 times per second in order to keep interactions fluid and responsive. Battery charging for the stylus is extremely simple, with a Lightning port on top allowing for a quick charge of 30 min use in 15 sec, and 3 month use in 12 hours. 3rd party APIs are also available in order for developers to make the best use of the Pencil in their apps. Apple hopes that the addition of new input methods like the Pencil and better integrated keyboard support is what allows businesses and enterprises to consider the iPad Pro for more of their employees’ daily tasks and increase sales. The iPad Pro will be available in late November starting at $799.
Third, Apple finally announced the also long rumored update to the Apple TV. The new set top box is bigger, faster, more integrated with Siri, has an App Store, a new remote, and can play games. Universal search is now supported across a variety of services, significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to find new content a user would be interested in and which subscribed service it’s available on. Cook referred to the product and its capabilities as allowing “apps to be the future of TV” with demos like video experiences from Major League Baseball and shopping experiences from Gilt. A developer SDK is also available for download, so new apps can be developed much like iOS and OS X today. The new Apple TV will be available in late October starting at $149.
Lastly, but most importantly to the company as a whole, Apple unveiled the much anticipated iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. This year’s iPhones retain a similar size and shape to those announced last year, but now come with a feature called “3D Touch”. 3D Touch adds force-sensing capabilities to the iPhone, much like Apple Watch and this year’s MacBooks, allowing for a new dimension of interaction with iOS. iOS 9 and all of Apple’s built in apps have been updated to take advantage of this new technology by adding helpful shortcuts where it makes sense. Looking for an email but not sure if the one in your inbox is the right one? Lightly press the screen to “peek” it into view so you can read it. What if that email was actually the one you were looking for? Press slightly harder to “pop” that email full screen so you can scroll comfortably. 3D Touch also allows you to quickly look at links and address in Safari and Messages, multi-task and switch apps without using the home button, and access custom shortcuts for apps on the home screen without ever opening the app. And of course, there’s a 3rd party API available to developers to implement whatever they dream up with this new technology. Other new features in the iPhone 6s/6s+ include 4K video recording, Live Photos (pictures that have movement to them, like the portraits at Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter book series), the ability to use “Hey Siri” without being plugged in, faster performance, faster cellular connectivity, and a better Touch ID sensor. These truly are the best iPhones yet. Both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will be available for pre-order on September 12th at 12 a.m. PDT and released on September 25.
In all, Apple demonstrated yesterday how an integration of hardware and software allows for planning and release of innovative products that are best in class in their respective categories. And through investments in their developer tools and ecosystem, the software and apps running on their devices make them unrivaled vs their competitors. Apple has once again shown why they are unlike any other company in the world.