The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, newly repainted and dolled up, was buzzing with Apple staff, press and special guests today as Apple prepared for an unprecedented number of announcements.
Of course we knew there would be a new pair of iPhones, called the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus respectively, squeezing new innards into the familiar casing of the iPhone 6. The 6 and 6 Plus have been runaway hits for Apple, so why would they change the design if they didn’t need to? Anyway, we’re used to this two-year design cycle.
Promised improvements include a better camera, faster processor, quicker LTE if your network supports it, faster wi-fi and stronger cover glass which should make the phone more durable. The pricing remains the same as last year’s phones and they go on sale on 25 September.
In the hand, the phone feels unsurprisingly familiar, but when you come to the new features, the experience is all new. First up is 3D Touch, a pressure-sensitive interface which launches new menus when you press harder. So you can bring up an email by pressing and pop back out of the message again. Press deeper and it opens.
The camera was, as expected, upgraded. Apple’s cameras have lagged behind others in pixel count for some time now, though picture quality has remained exceptional. Still, the new sensor, 12 megapixels replacing the 8 megapixels of the iPhone 6, promises much greater detail and faster, more accurate autofocus. For the front-facing camera, Apple will use the front display as a flash – an amazing idea, assuming it works. The new iPhones shoot 4K video, too.
There are other real novelties. Live Photos is a new system to add movement to photos. Companies like HTC have something similar but as you’d expect from Apple, this is a stunningly realised. It works by shooting stills for three seconds when you take a photo, adding compelling effects to regular shots. Android users can find an app on the Google Play store which helps them make the shift to Apple’s system.
The design is near-identical but there’s a new colour: rose gold. This will be the one to get if you want friends to know that you’re bang up to date.
Apple managed to blur the lines again between laptop and tablet with the announcement of the iPad Pro, with its 12.9-inch screen and the highest resolution of any iOS device.
The new machine was hugely impressive (in every sense). It’s noticeably heavier than other iPads but it still feels light relative to its size. The screen is astonishingly sharp and in brief tests seemed extremely fast and responsive. The new Pencil promises extra precision over regular capacitive styluses by cleverly doubling the rate at which the touch system scans what’s happening. Other styluses work, too, just not quite as quickly.
But the biggest news of the night was the new Apple TV. According to Steve Jobs’ biographer, fixing the interface to use your telly was an Apple obsession. This seems to be the answer, with a new bigger box than the current set-top box. The remote has a microphone built in so you can use Siri to control the TV. Amazon’s Fire TV box has a microphone as well, but as expected this is an immaculately executed feature.
There are more features: miss what somebody said onscreen and tell Siri “What did they say?” and the video rewinds 15 seconds and temporarily adds subtitles. This is the kind of detail that’s very winning and, frankly, only Apple would think of.
The evolution of the iPhone
Games are a central part of the living room experience and Apple is going for popular, family gaming – like Nintendo’s Wii. Eddy Cue said it was the foundation for the future of television. It’s out next month and addresses the fact that Apple TV, a cutting-edge device when first launched but had slipped behind rivals.
This was a big day for Apple announcements – they show a company at its most confident and determined to innovate.