Apple Stretches Its Lead
Among a slew of product announcements, Apple took some time to focus on new enterprise-oriented iPad features.
When Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage yesterday and pronounced he would be making a "monster announcement," let's just say that I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Apple had leaked that it'd be releasing a bigger iPad, but that the iPhone models would feature the same screen sizes and a new user interface feature called "Force Touch," but that was about it.
But, once again, Apple managed to leak just the footnotes, keeping the big stories for the official announcement. With yesterday's product news, the company managed to launch a basketful of mini revolutions even in an "off year."
Apple Watch and Cool New Apps
Cook opened up talking about Apple Watch, which will be getting a new and improved operating system called watchOS 2. This OS adds some interesting capabilities, including a GoPro app that allows you to use the watch as a viewfinder for your GoPro camera. It also demoed AirStrip, a healthcare app that allows a doctor to view his or her schedule by rotating the winder and for each appointment view the patient's vital signs as well as waveforms of pulse, respiration, and blood pressure in real time. For UC, it incorporates the ability to call, text, or email a team member directly from the app.
Recognizing the importance of fashion in wearables, Cook talked about Apple Watch as being an "expression of personal taste and style." To that end, Apple introduced new colors and bands, even striking up a design agreement with Hermes. While Hermes is producing a special line of watch bands for Apple Watch, Apple is creating three custom displays featuring the Hermes logo.
iPhone: Nice Touch
On the iPhone front, Apple is introducing the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus with, as I said, screen sizes identical to the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. More importantly, we got to see the first demo of what Force Touch capability, now officially called "3D Touch," can do. This turned out to be yet another demonstration of just how far ahead of competitors Apple remains in delivering what is far and away the best thought out and best executed user experience (UX) in tech. By placing capacitive sensors behind the glass, the new iPhones can distinguish between a tap, a harder press, and extended hard press.
Setting Apple apart from the rest is the intelligent way it incorporates these capabilities into what is already the best UX on the market. Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, did the demo starting with mail to demonstrate what Apple calls "peek and pop." You start with your traditional list of emails that you can scroll through, but you don't have to fully open them to see what they say. Rather, if you press on one it pops open so you can read it; if you're not interested you can simply release the press and you're back to the email list. Press a little harder and the email opens. Swipe to the left to trash it.
Just about every app has the peek-and-pop capability. Press on a date in any email or text, and your calendar for that day pops open and you can create an event. Press on a flight number, and you get the departure and arrival times and current status. Press on the phone icon, and your favorites pop up. Press on the camera icon to take a selfie -- the retina screen will now act as a flash. Press on the edge of the display, and all open apps show; you can do that today by hitting the Home button twice. Press on Dropbox, Facebook, or Instagram, and a menu of frequently used features pops up.
The new iPhone models include LTE Advanced capability in 23 frequency bands supporting data rates up to 150 Mbps, as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi with MIMO supporting data rates up to 866 Mbps.
Probably the coolest feature is Live Photos. Each picture that you take will now be a little three-second movie, with sound. Any time you take a picture, the iPhone will capture one and a half seconds before and after the shot. Press on the picture, and the movie plays. Also any time you scroll to a picture you get a little of that motion (not the whole three seconds), which makes the pictures appear alive. BlackBerry had done something similar some years ago, allowing you to move the shot backwards or forwards in time if someone had a funny face or had had eyes closed.
Apple is offering the models at the same price as the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in silver, gold, space gray, and rose gold colors. The iPhone 6S will go for $199 with 32 gigabytes of memory, $299 with 64G, and $399 with 128G. The iPhone 6S Plus will be $299 with 32G of memory, $399 with 64G, and $499 with 128G. It also will offer installment purchase plans, in direct competition with the lease and installment purchase plans being offered by the mobile operators. In the meantime, Apple is cutting prices on the 6 and 6 Plus. Apple will start accepting pre-orders on Sept. 12 with deliveries commencing Sept. 25. The new version of iOS, iOS 9, will be available Sept. 16.
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