Apple’s latest iPhone announcement was today, and with it came the newest Apple Watches, including a brand new Ultra model, and an updated AirPods Pro set. Overall the improvements seems gradual and like next, obvious steps, many of the new features seems to be focused on getting you out dangerous situations. So let’s talk about it
Apple Watch – Crash Safety, Temperature tracking, and the Ultra
Apple Watch Series 8
First, Apple showed off a couple new and refined watch faces, namely the new Lunar and modular watch faces and their refinements.
Apple then went on to talk about a new temperature sensor in the Series 8. There are 2 sensors, one in the base of the Watch that sits against your skin with the other in the face of the Watch. Together they can detect your temperature changes down to .1 degrees Celsius (.9 degree change Fahrenheit) and scans every 5 minutes. However Apple highlighted this not as a way to just check your temperature to see if you’re sick, but instead as a cycle tracking feature to aid in its accuracy and help those who are trying to get pregnant. Temperature changes in the female body can coincide with the ovulation and menstruation cycle. Using this and a user’s existing menstruation data in the Health app, Apple said they can now retroactively know when a user has ovulated. They stressed that this wasn’t focused on predicting future ovulation but only when you had ovulated recently or in the past.
Apple also took a moment to talk about how when used in the built-in Health app, the data is stored only on device, encrypted with your passcode/biometrics, and not sent to anyone that you don’t explicitly authorize. They also added that if you’re using Apple’s 2FA process, and you choose to back up your data to iCloud, the health data is end-to-end encrypted so that not even Apple can access it. Given the recent news around period tracking apps selling user data, this is necessary response to it.
The Series 8 also comes with a feature Apple says they hope you never have to use, “Crash Detection”. Apple says they used over 1 million hours of real world driving and accident data to train the algorithm and Watch on detected front end, rear end, side, and rollover crashes. They can do this by using GPS, the Watch microphones to detect the sounds of the crash, and the barometer to detect pressure changes due to an airbag. This feature is also aided by a new gyroscope and accelorameter that can can sample 4 times faster than normal when it believes it detects a crash. Apple says this feature only operates when you’re driving and when you enter a crash. While it’s focused on cars, I could see other forms of travel like air and train being able to take advantage of this (though hopefully rarely if ever). This feature also acts like Fall Detection, in that it will buzz you if it thinks you’ve been in an accident in order to allow you to tell it you’re fine or to call authorities, and will call said authorities if it doesn’t get a response after about 10-15 seconds.
As far as general improvements, the Watch has an 18 hour battery life, but can now be extended up to 36 hours thanks to it getting Low Power Mode. When in this feature, things like activity tracking and fall detection remain on, but the screen’s auto-workout detection and always-on screen are disabled. Apple noted that Low Power Mode is coming with Watch OS 9 to Series 4 and newer Watches. Watch OS 9 will also work with automatic International Roaming when you add your cellular model to your plan, though this won’t be coming to Series 4 and later watches until a little later in the year.
The Series 8 Watch will come in a Midnight Blue, Starlight gold, silver, and Product RED colors, and 3 additional Steel colors. There are several fresh new bands in the regular styles, Nike models, and Hermes bands (including a Hermes horse watch face). You can order it today and expect it to arrive in stores on Sept. 16. As usual, you’ll pay $399 for the base model and $499 for the base cellular model.
Apple Watch SE
Apple also announced a new Watch SE. It comes in Silver, Midnight, and Starlight, but has a redesigned back case made of a nylon composite materials with a supposed reduced carbon footprint and that better matches the color of the Watch. The SE will also now charge 20% faster, and new Family Setup options will let managed users have access to digital house keys a smart home control features.
You can pre-order the Watch SE 2 today for $249 or $299 for the cellular model and they will be available Sept. 16.
Apple Watch Ultra
Exploration, adventure, and endurance. That’s what Apple highlighted with the new Apple Watch Ultra announcement. The Ultra is meant to be the most advanced Apple Watch for those that are going to be the hardest adventures. It is WR-100 certified and can work in temperatures ranging from -4F (20C) to 131 F (55C). That’s a pretty solid range!
The Ultra comes in an aerospace gray titanium body that comes up to and surrounds the sapphire glass crystal screen. The body is 49 mm and contains the brightest display in a Watch – 2000 nits. This a very tactile Watch. The Ultra comes with a customizable Action button in “international orange” where users can map the functionality like launching a particular exercise or switching between exercises for duathlon and triathlon athletes, among others. This watch is designed to be usable with gloves with dial that has deeper grooves and the more clickable buttons. The Ultra comes with a total of 3 microphone and bigger speaker to improve sound reception and output. And Cellular built into all Ultra Watches. With this bigger body comes the biggest battery clocking in at 36 hours on single charge, with 60 in and extended battery mode coming in the fall (how this differs from the previously mentioned low power mode, we don’t know).
There are some slick new features to help you find your way, like the aptly named Wayfinder watch face with compass built into the face along with additional complications and accompanying Compass app with “Back Track”. The Wayfinder face also has a night mode that will turn the background elements completely black and the foreground elements red to help with preserving night vision. The Compass will use the new GPS antennas using L1+L5 GPS for more accurate GPS. You can then use the Compass app to set markers for things like your campsite or other important markers so you can use them as reference point in the Compass and on your Watch to help get your bearings. “Back Track” in the Ultra will help if you get lost by dropping markers and showing you your last path to help you know your turns and guide you back to a safe location. If you do get really lost, you can use that new speaker system to sound an alarm that Apple says can be heard from 180 meters/600 feet away. That’s pretty loud.
If you’re more on the swimming side of things, whether that be triathlon channel swims or scuba diving, the Ultra is even more water resistant, WR-100 to be precise, and is an EN13319 certified dive computer. The Ultra will also contain a Depth Sensor App that can launch automatically when swimming. Apple isn’t doing this on their own though, they’re working with Husch on the Oceanic+ app for the Ultra to work with Husch’s iPhone app. This diving app will let you easily scroll through options and features in the app, give you a compass help get your bearings, and give you emergency notices for things like depth and ascending too fast so you don’t injure yourself. It even include safety stop notices to help you know when to wait and allow your body time to adjust.
If you’re more of the runner type, the Ultra still has some features just for you with improved metrics, like vertical oscillation while running, and custom settings you can make. There will even be a feature, added later in the year, that will auto detect when you’ve arrived at a running track and prompt you to start a run.
And of course there are bands to go along with these, such as the Alpine look that uses a Titanium loop to hook into the straps, the Ocean band meant for use in the water even over the wetsuit, and the Trail loop being the thinnest band so as not to feel heavy and cause excess sweat while still maintaining a strong bind.
As to be expected this is also the most expensive Apple Watch model since the solid gold model All models cost $799, and you can pre-order them today, but they’ll be widely available Sept. 23.
AirPods Pro – A Refinement
Apple announced a revised AirPods Pro, which is a good revision but not necessarily one where you need to replace your existing AirPods Pro if they’re still good.
The Pros now come with a new H2 chip, will allows for high bandwidth connectivity, includes a new low distortion audio driver and custom amp. This allows the Pros to use not just Spatial Audio but using an iPhone running iOS 16, you can use the camera to create “Personalized Spatial Audio” tuned with sound placement just for you.
Apple has made some other physical adjustments to the AirPods Pro, including new mic and sensor placement, which they claim mean the Pros can get 2x better noise cancellation compared to the previous models. The Touch sensor is no long just grip based, but now has swipe support, meaning you can skip songs or adjust the volume by running your finger up or down the stem of one of your Pros. And if you have very narrow ear canals, there is a new Extra Small eartip option.
The New Pros also added an Adaptive Transparency mode so that the AirPods can reduce very loud noise, such as loud engines or construction noise when the AirPods are in transparency mode and then adjust once the noise has died down. Apple says they can do this by processing the environment around 48,000 times a second (which is kind of crazy if true). Even with these changes, Apple says you can get 6 hours of listening time on a full charge with the Pros alone. With the case, Apple claims you can get 30 hours of listening time (which is about 6 more than the last gen).
Speaking of the case, the last set of physical changes is not with the AirPods themselves, but with the Case. The Case now has a Speaker and Find My Integration, meaning if you set the case down and can’t find it, you can use Find My to be directed to it with on screen arrows while also have the case play a little jingle to help you pinpoint it further. The case now has an additional way to charge. While you can still charge via a cable or a Qi-compatible charger, you can now also charge them via the Apple Watch charger. Pretty handy.
On an environmental note, Apple did mention that you can and should trade in your old AirPods when you no longer want them to an Apple store for recycling and potential credit, though they also highlighted you can mail them in.
The AirPods Pro maintain their price of $299 with free engraving (including Memoji surprisingly) and can be pre-ordered starting Sept. 9, with arrival starting Sept. 23rd.
iPhone 14 – Purple, Better Cameras?, and Satellites!
In comes the yearly update. Overall this revision isn’t a huge overall on the face of it from the 13 before it, though there are some noteworthy changes still. First, gone is the Mini (RIP). Instead there is the iPhone 14 with a 6.1 inch screen and the iPhone 14 Plus with a 6.7 inch screen. If you were one of those people who wanted the bigger phone but hated paying the Pro price, this is the one for you.
The iPhone 14 still sports the A15 Bionic chip from the 13, though it has been enhanced a bit with a revised GPU and Image Signal Processor so it will be a bit faster. This is the first time we’ve seen a different processors in the same iPhone generations, though we’ve seen it in iPads before. That said, the A15 is still pretty beefy so it may be worth keeping that processor to keep the price down and save on production resources (given supply chain issues).
There are a few changes to the body though, some more apparent than others. First, the iPhone will ship in some new colors. Classics like Midnight, Starlight, and Product RED make their returns, but there is now a new lighter blue and purple color. The Dolby Vision OLED screen will now boast 1200 nitts max brightness. And, though Apple didn’t specify how, there is supposedly redesigned interior to improve the thermals and improve performance that way.
There is another change though that is interesting, though only for Americans at this point. This generation iPhone will no longer have a dedicated SIM port, but instead only have eSIMs, meaning there is no SIM card slot on American iPhone 14’s. eSIMs are pretty handy and convenient, though this could also make the wall to switch to a competitor a little higher if that model doesn’t also support eSIM.
The last major change is in the camera. The main camera has a larger sensor of 1.9 microns and a 1.5 aperture, which Apple says will make the iPhone twice as fast when shooting in Night Mode and make low light photos about 49% better. The front facing camera also is now a 12 MP TrueDepth camera with a 1.9 aperture, which will also help with low light photography, but also will now allow it to auto-focus.
Apple made a point of highlighting their improved HDR photo pipeline, which their calling “Photonic Engine”, with Deep Fusion being applied sooner and faster in the HDR process to improve low light performance, 2x better performance on the front and wide lens and 2.5 improvements on the main camera.
If you’re looking at video, the iPhone 14 gets Dolby Vision HDR and a new “Action Mode” that you can manually toggle for more advanced stabilization when you’re shooting scenes that may be extra bumpy and you don’t have other tools like gimbles to stabilize your camera. This stabilization is one area I feel like competitors have been better at lately than Apple has been, so I’m glad to see this improved with a dedicated mode. We’ll have to wait and see to get our hands on it before we judge how good it is.
Lastly, the iPhone 14 gets 2 new features thanks to new hardware. The first is, in conjunction with a new accelorameter and gyroscope, gets Crash Detection much like the Apple Watch (which these can work in conjunction with each other). If you want more info about that, check out the Apple Watch section.
The other new feature is Emergency SOS with Satellite connection. This feature was rumored at for a while and we even saw some early patents, but now it’s real. The way this works is that if you are in a place where you need emergency help, and you have no cellular or wifi connection, you can trigger this. The iPhone will help you aim your phone at a communication satellite over head so it can send data like your location. Because the transmission can’t send a lot of data at a time, the iPhone will prompt you with easy questions about your emergency such as this like vehicle crashes, injuries, if you’re lost, weather conditions, etc. that way it can transmit your location and the nature of your emergency so operators at least have some info about what’s going on without needing to ask and wait for a response. Apple did say this was going to available only in the US and Canada at first, and would relay either texts to nearby emergency centers that support texts or through relay centers for services that still only support calls. Apple said this will be free for 2 years after the purchase of an iPhone 14, though what happens after that 2 years they didn’t say. If it were me, I’d rather Apple just say they’re not going to charge for it. I think that would be a real commitment to safety. We’ll have to wait and see, I imagine this is not an easy or cheap operation.
That said, if you wanted Fitness+, you will get a free trail to that with your purchase of the iPhone 14 as well, even if you don’t have an Apple Watch.
The iPhone 14 will be sold starting at $799, and the Plus for $899. Both can be ordered starting the 9th, but the iPhone 14 will be available on the 16, while the Plus will have to wait until October.
iPhone 14 Pro
Compared to the base model the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max are actually a bigger revision.
The iPhone 14 Pro will ditch the notch in favor of what Apple calls the Dynamic Island (where as others call it the pill. While it seems odd at first, it actually makes a lot of sense seeing it in action. The front facing camera and Face ID tech have all been pushed together into a smaller frame, whereas the phone speaker is up in the thin bezel and the light sensor is behind the screen. Now certain background actions like timers, audio playing, phone calls, etc. will form black extensions around this carve out to show you information since as time remaining, album art, etc. Since this is an OLED screen, the black borders blend in pretty well with the cutout. You can then press and hold to get a widget and adjust function or see more, and tap the banner to launch the app. It can even handle showing 2 different little banners at the same time. Even Face ID prompts will pop up and around from this area. While it primarily works with Apple apps, they’ve said this will be a feature available to third parties should they decide to implement it.
The displays are the same size as their non-Pro counterparts, but will have 1600 nitts of brightness that can go up to 2000 nitts in bright sunlight, though you lose some of the HDR it seems. However, these screens will now have an Always On mode. When the phone is locked and inactive for a while, the screen will darken and can go down to a 1 Hrz refresh rate to save power, due in part to the new A16 Bonic chip and its new Display Engine inside (more on that in a minute). Apple did note that while the screen will dim and darken the elements, skin tones of any people on screen will be preserved as best as possible.
Now, onto the A16. Yes, as mentioned earlier, while the base models stick with the A15, Pros will get the A16, with (a fitting) 16 billion transistors on a 4 nm process. Apple says (as usual) this is the fastest chip in a smartphone. The CPU is the same as the A15, but uses 1/3 of the power and runs 20% faster. The GPU also has 50% more bandwidth to help pull in and process data faster. The Display Engine that helps manage the screen brightness and refresh rate (including the always-on display) will also improve anti-aliasing and brightness more efficiently. And there is an updated Image Signal processor to help with the Pro’s new Camera system.
And that’s, as always, the big focus on the Pro models. Yes the Pro models get all the same features as the 14 like Crash Detection, Action Mode, and the Satellite systems, but the cameras get the biggest bump, both in actual size and power. The main camera now comes with a 48 MP camera using a 65% larger and quad-pixel sensor. This mainly means that in regular photos it will still render 12 MP photos, but will give you more data to use to get better photos, especially when you zoom in. That said, if you shoot in Apple’s ProRAW format, you will get the full 48 MP shots. This new pixel pattern and signal processor means their should be twice as good low light performance, and will return the 2x zoom button option alongside the existing .5X, 1X, and 3X presents in the camera app. This comes with a 1.78 aperture, 24 mm focal length, and an improved sensor shift stabilization.
The Ultrawide lens will have a 6-element lens, leading to a 2.2 aperture, and 3X better Low Light improvements, which should also lead to better Macro shots. The flash also gets revised to have 9 LEDs and more controls over pattern and intensity of the flash (have to wait and see how much of this is actually surfaced to the user though).
If you were looking for big video improvements, there wasn’t much there that wasn’t talked about that wasn’t talked about with Action Mode and the other camera features. That said, you will now have the ability to shoot Cinematic Mode videos in 4K in either 24 or 30 frames-per-second, which will definitely help such videos fell more cinematic.
The 14 Pro’s come in Space Black, Silver, Gold, and Deep Purple colors and starts at $999 for the 14 Pro and $1099 for Max. Orders begin the 9th and are expected to arrive on the 23rd.
Honestly, it’s still funny how many of these new features, namely crash detection and SOS with Satellite are features you really never hope to use, but are fantastic to have. Sadly, we’ll probably have to wait and see how well they work in real life situations, which are never fun. I think a lot of this stuff are really just refinements on existing things, and nothing really blew me away. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, not every year will be huge, nor should we expect it to be. The Ultra Watch is probably the one thing that actually seems to be the biggest change, and the one that I really think Apple wanted to target those who are true fitness and exploration people. The extreme athletes, if you will.
But what do you all think? Let me know in the comments what you like or don’t like about the announcement.