Apple Event – September 15, 2020

Apple had their fall hardware announcement called “Time Flies”. It focused primarily on the Apple Watch, iPad, and Apple services. Let’s go over

Apple Watch: 2 new models

Apple started off the show talking about the Apple Watch and all its amazing health benefits and the lives it has changed and saved. To that end, the company announced 2 new Watch models, the first being their flagship, the Series 6. The Series 6 now comes in 4 colors: Red (in support of Product Red), Gold, Space Grey, and the newest Blue. There also comes new bands. One is a “Solo” Loop, which is just one single loop of either rubber or made with recycled yarn and silicon threads. Another is a leather link band that fits together in seeming notches. There are also new Hermes and Nike bands for those that prefer those branded ones.

But let’s talk tech and software! The Series 6 will come with WatchOS 7, which you can read all about in our article on WatchOS 7 from WWDC (though there is more to that, keep reading). This new Series 6 will now have several new features insides. Included in the Watch comes support for 2 new wireless components. The first is support for 5GHz Wifi. 5 GHz is the compatriot to 2.4 GHz Wifi that we’re used to, and allows for faster data transmission than 2.4, albeit at less distance than the 2.4. But if you’re out of Bluetooth range of your phone, your Watch now has a faster way to connect to it than before.

Red Series 6 Apple Watch, Image courtesy of Apple
Red Series 6 Apple Watch, Image courtesy of Apple

The second new wireless features in the Series 6 is the addition of the U1 Ultra-wideband chip. Introduced in the iPhone 11 line, Series 6 will be able to use this chip for things like Apple Maps “Nearby Experiences” or the rumored Apple “AirTags” for keeping track of your devices.

The Apple Watch now comes with an always on altimeter. This means the watch can more accurately measure changes in altitude as you move around in the world. This is particularly useful for people exercising outdoors such as runners and climbers, meaning not only can athletes more accurately measure their progress, but the Watch can more accurately measure their exercise expenditure.

The Watch now also comes with Red LED and infrared lights. New colors, technically yes, but they also serve an important new function: the iPhone can now measure your VO2. This is a common measurement in exercise to determine how much oxygen your body is able to use during exercise, typically aerobic exercise. The Watch can use these red and infrared lights to measure your VO2 to help determine your health and oxygen levels during exercise. It will be available in the new Oxygen app, and will take about 15 seconds to measure when actively used. However it will measure it throughout the day to help you get an idea out of how much you’re utilizing throughout the day.

All this is powered by the S6 chip, which is based off the A13 Bionic chip. According to Apple, it means 20% better performance than the previous S5 chips. It also means that the screen can be 2.5 times brighter when the Watch is down (as in you’re not looking at it), meaning power management has increased. Apple says the batteryblife and sppeds have improved to the point that the Series 6 will complete a full charge in 90 minutes. This watch will come in priced at $399 as usual and go up based on the screen size and if you choose the GPS only or Cellular model.

Apple also introduced a brand new, lower priced model of the Watch, called the Apple Watch SE. Much like the iPhone of the same name, it blends some modern features and design with some older components to lead to a much reduced price. In this case, it uses S5 chip rather than the S6, while still retaining most of the basic features such as the gyroscope, fall detection, and compass. It appears to lack the ECG and Blood VO2 monitoring that the Series 6 has, though Apple hasn’t explicitly said the SE doesn’t have the ECG function. The new Apple Watch SE starts at $279 for the smaller GPS model and goes up based on screen size and if you buy the cellular version.

As mentioned before, both of these watches will be running Watch OS, but Apple announced a new feature with Watch OS 7 called “Family Share”, which will allow you to connect multiple Apple Watches for different members of your family that may not have an iPhone. This seems to be mainly focused on giving children watches without needing to give them iPhones, though it could also be used for other dependents such as older members of your family since it supports things like Emergency SOS and Fall Detection. Regardless, it seems to be more for the cellular watch, as you can give each watch its own phone number which family members can use to call or text from, as well as giving them an allowing through Apple Cash Family and being able to track their location through the “Find My” Function. Family Sharing does provide some management features such as “Schooltime”, which can be used to limit certain Watch functions and notifications throughout certain times of day to allow children to focus. There’s definitely a market for this, as some people may want to keep an eye and ear open on their younger ones or other older dependents without necessarily giving them a phone that they may not or should not be using.

One last note is on the environmental side. Apple announced they were removing the USB adapter from Apple Watch purchases. To be clear this is only the adapter to connect the charging cable to the wall, not the charging cable itself. You can still buy them or use ones you’ve acquired from other Apple Watches or devices. It’s just that the new ones will only include the magnetic charging cable with a USB end. While this may be frustrating to new Apple Watch purchasers, Apple said they’re working to reduce their environmental impact, and since many people already own a USB wall adapter of some sort, even if it’s not Apple, it likely will reduce the junk in your house over time as well as reduce the number that end up in landfills.

Apple Services: 2 New Services

Image from Apple Fitness exercise stream, Image courtesy of Apple
Image courtesy of Apple

Apple Services offerings have been growing over the last few years with the introduction of things like iCloud storage, Apple Music, Apple News+, Apple Arcade, and Apple TV+. Now, we have 2 more: Fitness+ and Apple One.

Fitness+ is the newest addition to the Services lineup. At $9.99/month or $79.99 for a year that can be shared with family, Fitness+ users will 10 different workout types with different times for live stream and on-demand workouts, as well as different trainers for each. The exercise categories are Yoga, strength, cooldown, cycling, dance, HIIT, treadmill, and core. You can select whichever ones you want, but the system can use on-device machine learning to recommend exercises for you. Apps for will be available on the Watch in conjunction with iPadOS and TVOS. When you’re streaming an exercise on the screen, it will automatically trigger to appropriate exercise on your Watch and show your Apple Watch workout stats on screen, including hitting goals. New workouts will be added each week, can be done anywhere, and require no equipment except the occasional dumbbells for some exercises. Apple also notes that these exercises can be done to various music playlists like hip-hop, Latin, and country music, and presumably other genres too. If you’re excited about the service, you’ll have to wait as this won’t come until later in 2020 according to Apple.

Apple TV service on Mac, Arcade on iPad, and Music on iPhone showing off benefits of Apple One subscription, Image courtesy of Apple
Image courtesy of Apple

Now if you’re like many and think there are just too many Apple services to keep track of, even if you do actually use them, there is a new option for you: Apple One. Apple One is the Apple Services bundle to help save you money on the Apple Services you want to use, assuming you want to use all of them. There are 3 plans

  • The Individual plan: For $14.95 you get Apple Music, Arcade, TV+ and 50 gig of iCloud storage (Combined cost for each service individually = $20.96)
  • Family plan: For $19.95 it includes the same services as the Individual but comes with 200 gigs of iCloud storage, all of which can be shared among 6 family members (Combined cost: $22.96)
  • Premiere: For $29.95 includes the above services as well as News+ and the new Fitness+, along with the max 2 TB of iCloud storage all of which can be shared among 6 family members (Combined cost = $49.94). This will only be available in countries where Apple News+ is available.

The Apple One Services come with a 30 day trial, and if you share the services with Family Members each member will still use the services under their own personal accounts and maintain separate preferences and lists. The Premiere and Individual plans seem to be very steady options, whereas the family plan is technically a savings, though to a lesser percentage. That’s assuming you use enough of these services. But bundling them together like Amazon has could be a good way to save some money on these services and make it harder to leave the Apple ecosystem.

iPad: 2 New iPads

New iPad Air sideview with the word "Air" drawn in cursive in the background.
New iPad Air, Image courtesy of Apple

Apple announced 2 new iPad upgrades today as it celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPad (another part of the “Time Flies” moniker). One was a mild revamp and the other an overhaul.

First, the revamp: The 8th gen iPad will replace the iPad 7th gen (listed by Apple as just the “iPad” The only notable change is the 8th gen will be getting the A12 Bionic chip, a 2 year old chip replacing the 4 year old A10 chip. That said, the A12 is still no slouch, and most people upgrading from a previous iPad will likely notice a difference. The price remains at $329, though it is available for $299 for students and educators.

The iPad Air, on the other hand, had a massive overhaul. For one, it looks like the current line of iPad Pros. The screen size has been bumped up to 10.9 inches rather than 10.5, mostly due to the removal of the Home Button and reduced bezels. Don’t despair lovers of TouchID, for it is not dead but moved! TouchID is now in the power button, and can be used just the same as it has been previously. Admittedly this is somewhat less convenient placement, it also keeps a feature that many people love, and maybe could harken to future, less expensive iPhones having something similar. I am concerned that one may accidentally lock their iPad when trying to authorize something, but we’ll have to wait to get our hands on to try it.

The Air will also be getting improved speakers and cameras. While it still only has 2 speakers, these are improved and can be heard pretty clearly when the iPad is flipped to landscape mode and the speakers go into stereo audio. The rear facing camera gets bumped up to 12 megapixels, and can allow for 4K video recording at 24, 30, and 60 FPS as well as slow-mo recording at 120 or 240 FPS in 1080p. It will also allow for 8 MP photos while recording video, can do auto stabilizing on video and photos as you take them. The front facing camera is also getting bumped up to 7 megapixels. While it’s not a FaceID camera, it does allow for 1080p, 60fps video recording, so your video conference will come in sharper and smoother (if that’s something you want for front facing videos).

Another note the Air takes from the Pro is the replacement of Lightning with USB-C for faster charging, more speed, and a more universal charger. Apple seems to be gradually rolling this out across its devices, and we’re likely to see these changes slowly working their way through the iPad line before eventually hitting iPhone users.

The 5 iPad colors in a stack.  Space gray at the bottom, silver next up, rose gold in the middle, green second from the top, and sky blue at the very top.  IMAGE COURTESY OF APPLE
The 5 different iPad colors, Image courtesy of Apple

All of these changes will be powered by the latest A14 Bionic chip, which is surprising given that the newest generation of chips are typically announced on the iPhones first before the iPads. Apple did spend a lot of time talking about these, likely to save on talking about them when the new iPhones eventually drop. The A14 will now have 4 GPU cores and 6 CPU cores, making them 30% and 40% faster over the A13 chip respectively. On top of this, Apple ups their machine learning game by giving the A14 a 16-core Neural Engine along with new Machine Learning accelerators that are supposed to see a 2X improvement to machine learning tasks with the new neural engine, and an additional 10x improvement with the new accelerators. We’ll have to look more into what these accelerators are and how they work, but the initial results seem impressive based on what we were able to see with some of the apps demoed. Particularly, we saw DJ Pro being run very smoothly but without the DJ having to even touch the iPad. Likewise Pixelmator, slowly becoming my favorite image editor, showed how they were using machine learning to add a movie like “Enhance” feature to smooth out edges on zoomed in images and automatically make these images sharper and clearer. It was rather impressive, though the full results will have to wait until our hands are on the device.

The iPad Air starts at $599 for a Wifi only, 64 GB model, and is now available in a variety of colors, such as space grey, rose gold, silver, and now sky blue or green.

Both will be available starting next month

Other announcements: 2 Things Not Talked About…And some other stuff

If you’re excited to get your hands on the new OS updates, iOS, iPadOS, and WatchOS are being released on the 16th (as in tomorrow).

You’ll notice that Apple didn’t say anything about the Mac or the iPhone in this article. Apple said upfront that this event would be focused on these 2 device categories, and the iPhones will be announced later in the fall. It’s more likely that the Mac news will also come in their own announcement talking about Big Sur and some new Macs, including what we expect to be their first publicly available Apple Silicon Mac. We’ll have to wait and see on that.

There are a few other things of note. As mentioned before, Apple is trying to reduce their impact on the environment. While Apple has been a leader of this for years, they’re continuing to try and improve by using 95% recycled packaging material, 100% recylced aluminum cases for the watch and similar amounts for other Apple devices, as well as removing other nasty items like mercury and PVC from their products. They also announced they are continuing to transition not only their campus, but their server farms and stores to completely renewable energy and want to reach a completely carbon neutral footprint by 2030.

Apple also announced it is working with the Singapore government to help support their national health initiative. Singaporeans will be able to use an Apple Watch and the LumiHealth app to help make Singaporeans healthy, and they can be rewarded with cash for meeting or maintaining certain goals. This is a clear example of how well Apple is pushing and supporting health initiatives.

There’s likely a lot more we missed and still can learn as these are released, but let us know what your favorite items from the announcement were.

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