It’s September, which it means its time for a new Apple hardware event. In this case, it was quite literal because the Apple Watch Series, as well as the iPad Air, were the focus this year. As predicted last week, this was not an iPhone 12 launch. Here’s everything we got instead.
Apple Watch 6
The event kicked off with the brand new Apple Watch Series 6.
The biggest upgrade this year is new blood oxygen monitoring. This uses green, red and infrared lights on the wrist to measure light reflected back from your blood. The new blood oxygen app takes this measurement in 15 seconds. It also has the ability to run in the background if you wear your Apple Watch to bed.
As for the screen, the always-on display introduced in the Series 5 last year is now said to be 2.5 times brighter outside. There is also a new addition to the always-on lineup — always-on altimeter.
This utilises a new barometric altimeter as well as GPS and Wi-Fi networks to provide real-time elevation. As a hiker, I’m quite keen to see how this goes in the real world.
Some ECG upgrades were also added to the new Apple Watch, but that’s superfluous for us Aussies. Two years on and we still don’t have ECG functionality on our Apple Watches.
Down in the guts of the Apple Watch Series 6 you’ll find a brand new S6 processor, which is based on the A13 bionic chip found in the iPhone 11. In addition to an 18-hour battery life new fast-charge capabilities (zero to 100% in an hour and a half), Apple boasts that the new processor is 20 per cent faster than the previous generation.
On the WatchOS 7 front there wasn’t much we didn’t already know about thanks to WWDC earlier this year. We already knew about sleep tracking and the hand washing timer.
However, Apple did announce a lower range for VO2 Max, which is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilise during exercise. If it drops, the Apple Watch Series 6 will send a notification.
There are a few changes on the design front, and digital crown fans will be happy to note that despite the rumours, it hasn’t been removed.
But we do have two new colours — blue and PRODUCT RED, which has become an institution in iPhone launches.
A completely new band style is also joining this year’s lineup — Solo Loop. This is a single piece band that can be stretched and comes in two material types — silicon and braided yarn.
There are also some new bands from Nike and Hermes as per usual.
On the Face front, there are some interesting new additions. The GMT face focuses on automatic timezone switching — which will be useful if we ever get to travel again.
The Countup face can be used for timing, like when you're in the kitchen. The Chronograph face is all about precision and the Typographic display is for those who just want something simple but lovely to look at.
There are also new dedicated watch faces for photographers, health care workers, pride and surfers. Memoji faces are a thing now, too. But let's just leave that there.
One big change to the Apple Watch this year is the introduction of Family Setup. This allows an Apple Watch to be paired without a dedicated iPhone. This basically means that if you have a kid or older relative without their own phone they can still have their own Apple Watch set up by you.
In the case of children, parents can specify which contacts they can communicate with and location notifications can also be toggled on.
There's also a dedicated Schooltime mode which will activate Do Not Disturb and restrict apps on the device. It will display a distinctive yellow circle on the face of the watch for teachers and parents to recognise when Schooltime is activated.
Family Setup isn't coming to Australia just yet but Apple did say it's coming to "more regions" at a later date.
In terms of compatibility, it will be available on any cellular model of Apple Watch from the Series 4 onward. This means that it won't be compatible with GPS-only models.
The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $599 for the GPS version and $749 for the cellular. It will be available in Australia from Friday September 18.
Apple Watch SE
Yep, the rumours were true. We're getting a second Apple Watch this year, and it's cheaper.
The Apple Watch SE will come in a large display only and sport an S5 chip, which is two times faster than the Apple Watch Series 3. It will also come in both GPS and cellular variants.
It has the same accelerometer, gyroscope and altimeter sensors as the Series 6 as well as fall detection, noise level monitoring, Emergency SOS, and international emergency calling.
And because it's on WatchOS 7 it has all the same software and face inclusions announced for the Series 6, as well as Solo Loop compatibility.
If you're after a cheaper option, at $429 this is pretty damn good. It will be available in Australia from Friday September 18.
On the services front, Apple has launched a brand new one that is targeting fitness -- Apple Fitness+.
At its core the service offers on-demand workouts on your iPhone, iPad or Apple TV. On top of that (literally) it overlays your Apple Watch metrics directly onto the screen, including your rings.
Apple says that fresh workouts will be added to the roster every week and "intelligent suggestions" will show you exercises you might like as well as ones that will balance your routine.
At the present time Apple Fitness+ is only compatible with the 10 'most popular' workout types available on Apple Watch, such as Cycling, Treadmill, Rowing, HIIT, Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, and Mindful Cooldown.
Apple Fitness+ costs $14.99 per month or $119.99 for a year. You'll also get three months for free with a new Apple Watch purchase. It will be available sometime before the end of 2020.
Apple is pushing even further into services by straight up bundling them all together. This means iCloud, Music Apple TV+, Arcade, News+ and Fitness+ can now all be purchased as part of one subscription.
There are three different plans available:
- Individual: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage for $19.95 a month.
- Family: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 200GB of iCloud storage for $25.95 a month. This can be shared with up to six family members.
- Premier: Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+ and 2TB of iCloud storage for $39.95 a month. This can also be shared with up to six family members.
30-day free trials will available and we'll see all three of these plans launch sometime later this spring.
New iPad 8th Gen
The other big rumour for today was new iPads, and that turned out to be accurate!
While we were expecting a new iPad Air refresh, a new baseline iPad was a pleasant surprise.
It's been ten years since the first iPad hit the market and we're now up to the 8th generation. It comes with a 10.2-inch retina display, A12 bionic chip and a brand new neural engine. It will come with 32GB or 128GB storage options.
The new iPad is said to sport 40 per cent better performance than the previous generation and two-times faster graphics.
A new compact UI also allows for better language recognition with the Apple Pencil (first gen only), which is great if you have terrible handwriting like me and want to use the handwriting-to-text feature. The new 8th-gen iPad still supports handwriting recognition using the Apple Pencil.
The 8th generation iPad will be available on Friday September 18 and will start at $499 for the Wi-Fi model and $699 for the cellular.
iPad Air 4
This is where things get really interesting. Apple might actually be contesting the iPad Pro with the the iPad Air 4. In fact, they look pretty similar.
The new iPad Air has a 10.9-inch liquid retina all-screen display. It has also brought Touch ID back, albeit in a new home. The new fingerprint sensor now lives in the power button at the top of the device, allowing for more screen real estate.
Under the hood you'll find the latest A14 bionic chipset that comes with 5nm architecture that Apple claims "challenges the laws of physics."
The A14 is said to be 40 per cent faster than the previous A13 7nm chipset and offer 3o per cent faster graphics. The newer neural engine also apparently doubles the iPad Air's learning performance.
Apple claims the A14 is 40% faster than Apple’s previous generations chips while also offering 30% speedier graphics. And by enhancing the A14’s neural engine, Apple says the iPad Air boasts twice the machine learning performance as well.
If you're one to take photos with an iPad (we'll try to reserve judgement, mum) it has a 7MP front-facing camera as well as the same 12MP rear camera found on the iPad Pro.
It's also more compatible than ever, working with the Apple Pencil (it even has its own magnetic charging zone now) as well as the new Magic Keyboard that was introduced earlier this year.
And perhaps most exciting of all, it's ditched the lightning cable for a USB-C charging port. Happy days!
Now, I'm a big fan of the 2020 iPad Pro, particularly due to the Magic Keyboard and the 2nd generation Apple Pencil. For me, it's all about the functionality over the raw power.
For comparison, the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $1,329, where the new Air will start at $899.
Considering the far cheaper price point on the Air and the fact it has so many of the same inclusions, this is an insanely good option if you don't need everything the guts of the iPad Pro has to offer, but want all the peripherals.
I'd have to try them both of course, but at least on paper this thing makes it difficult to recommend paying more for the Pro.
While these have been in beta for awhile, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS are all getting released this week.
iPhone 12 sneak peak
While we didn't expect the iPhone 12 to launch this week, we at least thought there would be a sneak peak. But surprisingly, there wasn't one. There wasn't even a friendly "see you on X date" from Apple CEO Tim Cook to finish off the stream.
We knew there were delays, but this was quite unexpected. Perhaps there really were no models ready for when this event was pre-recorded.
I guess all we can do for now is wait any new rumours that may drop in the coming weeks. We'll see you for Apple Day round two... at some point.
Disclosure: the author has 12 shares in Apple.