Apple Unveils iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and AirPods

As we anticipated, Apple used its September 7th media event (which you can watch) to announce the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the new Apple Watch Series 2 and a pair of wireless earbuds called AirPods. Apple also announced that iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are due to ship on September 13th. Although Apple didn’t mention the iPad or Mac during the event, the company later modified its iPad lineup with new configurations and pricing and said that macOS Sierra would ship on September 20th. Let’s look at the key details of Apple’s announcements and explore what they might mean to you — there’s a lot to get through!

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

It’s what we were all waiting for. Apple announced the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which are the same sizes as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively. The company stuck with the silver, gold, and rose gold case colors, but dropped space gray in favor of two black finishes: a matte black and a polished jet black.

iPhone-7


As rumored, the new models drop the 3.5mm analog headphone jack entirely, but they come with a pair of Lightning-based EarPods for listening to music and making phone calls, plus a free Lightning-to-headphone adapter so you can continue to use older audio equipment. You can also buy additional adapters for $9.

The new iPhones have notably improved cameras. Along with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera that offers body and face detection plus image stabilization, the main rear-facing camera provides a 12-megapixel sensor with an ƒ/1.8 aperture lens that Apple claims is 60 percent faster and 30 percent more energy efficient than the camera in the iPhone 6s. The flash features four LEDs for 50% more light, plus a flicker sensor to help correct for artificial lighting. Even better, optical image stabilization is now standard on both models, and both can capture raw images with wide-gamut color.

For photography buffs, the iPhone 7 Plus is particularly interesting, because it features another rear-facing camera, which provides a telephoto lens with an ƒ/2.8 aperture. Apple’s Camera app seamlessly combines the two cameras to provide 2x optical zoom (up to 10x digital zoom) and will have a Portrait mode that focuses on people in the foreground while blurring the background. (Portrait mode is due to ship in an update to iOS later this year.)

The Home button takes a page from the Force Touch trackpad; it’s no longer a physical button but instead uses Apple’s Taptic Engine to make it feel as though you’re pushing a button. Apple says it should be more responsive and more reliable.

Losing the headphone jack and making the Home button force-sensitive helped Apple in another way: the iPhone 7 models are now dust and water resistant. Don’t toss your iPhone 7 in the pool, since they’re rated for immersion in only up to 1 meter of water, but it should withstand an errant splash or fall into the waves at the beach.

The iPhone 7 models are powered by Apple’s quad-core A10 Fusion processor, which automatically switches between two cores dedicated to high performance and two that are optimized for power efficiency to prolong battery life. Their screens are improved too, with Apple promising 25% more brightness with a wider color display.

Pricing of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus remains the same, but the storage amounts double from those available for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. For the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, then, the 32 GB models cost $649 and $749, 128 GB of storage costs $749 and $869, and 256 GB will run you $849 and $969. Oddly, the jet black color is available only in 128 GB and 256 GB sizes. Or you can choose the iPhone Upgrade Program’s payments of $32 to $46 per month for 2 years, depending on which model you want. Preorders for the new iPhone 7 models start on 9 September 2016, with availability coming a week later.

Apple Watch Series 2

Less expected than the iPhone 7 was the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple’s first hardware update to the company’s wrist-based iPhone accessory, adding a much-requested GPS chip and making the watch significantly more water resistant.

Apple-Watch-Series-2

From the outside, little has changed, although Apple did discontinue the mega-expensive gold Apple Watch Edition (which topped out at $17,000) in favor of the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 2, which starts at $1249. Apple extended its lifestyle partnerships, updating the Apple Watch Hermès edition and introducing an Apple Watch Nike+, both of which differ from the stock models only in bands and custom watch faces.

The most significant addition is the GPS chip, which enables runners to track their routes and get performance information without carrying a bulky iPhone. When you complete a workout, the Activity app shows a map of your route along with speed data. Third-party apps like Strava and Runkeeper should also be able to take advantage of the GPS chip. Apple also doubled the brightness of the screen to make it easier to see in direct sunlight.

Swimmers, rejoice! Apple made the new watch water resistant to a depth of 50 meters and beefed up the Workout app with Pool and Open Water workout options that count laps and track average lap pace. You still can’t take it scuba diving or waterskiing, but for most standard aquatic activities, you shouldn’t have to worry about water damage.

Finally, those who found the original Apple Watch sluggish will appreciate Apple’s second-generation S2 System in a Package (SiP) chip, which Apple claims is 50% faster and includes a graphics processing unit that can double performance. Of course, the new models come with watchOS 3, which also provides significant speed boosts.

The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38 mm model. Prices increase with the 42 mm model and with certain bands. You can preorder on September 9th, with availability on September 16th, although the Nike+ version won’t ship until October and the Hermès version ships on September 23rd.

If the Apple Watch still feels a little pricey, you can buy an Apple Watch Series 1 starting at $269—it’s an upgraded original model with the new S2 processor but not the GPS chip, water resistance, or brighter screen.

AirPods

Although Apple did the right thing and included a Lightning-to-headphone adapter with every iPhone 7, the company also said, “the future is wireless.” To bolster that claim, Apple announced the AirPods, a pair of wireless headphones that eliminate the iconic white wires while still providing high-quality audio output and input.

AirPods

The AirPods pair simultaneously to your iPhone and Apple Watch with a simple one-tap setup, and you can switch them to work with your iPad or Mac easily. (They act as normal Bluetooth earbuds when used with non-Apple devices—it remains to be seen how well that works.) Thanks to optical sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when they are in your ears, turning on and off automatically to save power. Apple claims you can get 5 hours of listening time on one charge; you recharge them in a special case that holds multiple additional charges for 24 hours of life before it too needs recharging via a Lightning cable.

The AirPods include beamforming microphones that can focus on where your voice is coming from and filter out background noise, which should improve phone calls and recognition with Siri. Speaking of which, just double-tap one of the AirPods to invoke Siri to issue commands to whatever device the AirPods are paired with.

Apple says the AirPods will be available in late October for $159.

iPad Lineup Changes

Apple currently sells three standard iPads, the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4, and the iPad mini 2, and they just became better deals. Prices remain the same, but for each price point, Apple doubled the base storage, so you can now buy the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4 with either 32 GB ($399 for Wi-Fi or $529 for Wi-Fi plus cellular) or 128 GB ($499/$629), and the iPad mini 2 in just a 32 GB configuration ($269/$399).

If you’re instead considering a 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the storage options are unchanged, but the 128 GB model dropped in price by $50, and the 256 GB model is now $100 cheaper.

iPad-pricing


Twitter: Apple has announced the new iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and wireless AirPods—head over to our blog for details!

Facebook: At its special event on September 7th, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the GPS-enabled Apple Watch Series 2 and the wireless AirPods for wire-free audio. We have the key details over at our blog, including pricing and when all these goodies will become available.

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What’s Coming to the Big Screen and the Little Screen

Despite the focus on iOS 10 and macOS 10.12 Sierra, Apple isn’t forgetting about its other hardware lines, the living room-focused Apple TV and the wrist-based Apple Watch. For those who own a fourth-generation Apple TV, tvOS 10 will be coming soon, and all Apple Watch owners can look forward to the radically revised watchOS 3.

Although Apple jumped the gun on tvOS 10 by releasing the new Siri-savvy Apple TV Remote app for the iPhone, there will be plenty of enhancements on the Apple TV itself. Siri gets smarter, enabling you to search for shows or movies by topic or theme. It will also find YouTube videos and find live TV playing in supported apps, like ESPN.

We’re particularly looking forward to tvOS’s new Photos app, which will provide a big-screen experience for viewing Memories slideshows or the new albums for People and Places. Those who find the Apple TV’s main screen too bright in a dark room will appreciate the new “dark mode.” A new option to download apps automatically will ensure that you get any Apple TV apps associated with your iOS apps without additional effort. And, finally, a new single sign-on feature should make it a lot easier to log in to those apps that require a paid cable or satellite subscription. If only we’d had that for the Olympics!

These tvOS changes are welcome but not earth-shattering. With watchOS 3, however, Apple rethought how you interact with the Apple Watch, throwing away both glances and the Friends screen and giving the side button an entirely new function. When you add in significantly faster app launches, additional watch faces (including Minnie Mouse!) with more complications, and a simplified way of replying to messages, watchOS 3 essentially gives you a whole new Apple Watch.

Taking a cue from iOS, swiping up on the Apple Watch screen now displays Control Center for quick management of common settings. And, instead of showing the Friends screen, pressing the side button displays the Dock, to which you can add your most used apps. Swipe left and right in it to navigate between apps, which are kept up to date and launch instantly, making for a far better experience than poring over the app cloud. You can also swipe left and right on watch faces to switch between them, which makes it easier to choose the face that best matches your mood.

watchOS-CC-Dock-app


New apps include Reminders and Find My Friends, which let you glance at your wrist instead of pulling out your iPhone to check to-dos and the location of your friends. Entirely new is Breathe, which guides you through deep breathing sessions to reduce stress. For those who find social pressure motivating, the Activity app now lets you share workout and activity information with friends and family. Activity also now supports wheelchair users, encouraging them with “time to roll” instead of “time to stand” reminders, and providing wheelchair-specific workouts and wheelchair-aware calorie tracking.

watchOS-SOS-settings

To increase peace of mind, a new SOS feature will call emergency services when you press and hold the side button (set it up in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone). Then it notifies your emergency contacts, providing them with a map of your location. The Apple Watch can also display your Medical ID (set that up in the Health app on the iPhone), which provides information about allergies and medical conditions.

Last, but far from least, after some setup, wearing your Apple Watch will be all that’s necessary to unlock recent Macs running macOS 10.12 Sierra. It might be worth getting an Apple Watch just to avoid having to type that login password multiple times per day!

 

When Should You Upgrade to macOS Sierra, iOS 10, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10?

upgrade-thinking-photo-1080x675

It’s that time of year again, as the leaves start to turn, the air gets crisp, the grass is covered with frost in the morning, and Apple releases major operating system upgrades. We’ve known this was coming since the company’s announcement in June, but now it’s time to think hard about when you’ll upgrade.

(Note that we say “when” and not “if.” There’s no harm in delaying an upgrade until Apple has had a chance to squash the 1.0 bugs and it’s a convenient time in your schedule. But waiting for too long can put you at risk from security vulnerabilities and prevent you from taking advantage of new integrations between Apple’s devices. Plus, should you have to replace a Mac or iOS device unexpectedly, you may be forced to use the current operating system, which could be awkward if you weren’t ready for the upgrade.)

Let’s dispense with the easiest answer right off. If you have a fourth-generation Apple TV, either let it upgrade itself to tvOS 10 or manually invoke the upgrade from Settings > System > Software Updates. Since tvOS 10 is a relatively minor update and you don’t create work on an Apple TV, upgrading is unlikely to cause any problems. If you’re a major TV junkie and are paranoid about how the upgrade could prevent you from watching your favorite show, just wait a few weeks until other users have reported on their experiences on the Internet.

In some ways, the question of when to upgrade to watchOS 3 has a similar answer. Although watchOS 3 is a major upgrade that radically changes how you interact with the Apple Watch, the improvements are so significant and the downsides so minimal that it’s easy to recommend an immediate upgrade. However, to install watchOS 3, you must have upgraded your iPhone to iOS 10 first. So…

What about iOS 10? Now we need to hedge a little. Although iOS 10 has been getting good reviews from beta testers, if you rely on an app that isn’t compatible, you’ll want to put off your upgrade. Check the App Store listing for your key apps, and if they’ve been updated recently, you’re probably OK. The other thing to remember is that iOS 10 changes the Lock screen behavior, so it may be worth delaying the upgrade until you have some time to poke at the new interface. Messages and Photos also receive a bunch of new features that you may want to play with, but you shouldn’t have any trouble using them before you’ve figured out the new stuff.

As always, the rubber meets the road on the Mac. Like iOS 10, macOS 10.12 Sierra has gotten good reviews from beta testers, but if you rely on your Mac to get your work done, it’s important to ensure that your key apps are compatible. Plus, despite Apple’s public beta, it’s not uncommon for unanticipated problems to surface once the first release of a new operating system for the Mac becomes more broadly available. Unless you’re dying to use the new features in Sierra that integrate with iOS 10 and watchOS 3, we recommend waiting until version 10.12.1 or even 10.12.2 before upgrading. That gives you plenty of time to make sure your apps and workflows will work in Sierra.

Finally, we just want to say that as much as change can be hard, we’re excited about Apple’s new operating systems. Like you, we probably won’t end up using all the new features, but some of them will definitely enhance the experience of being an Apple user.