Apple Services Event March 2019 Notes

Sesame

Apple opened yesterday’s event at the Steve Jobs theater in Cupertino with a 1960’s-style movie credits animation that paid homage to previously successful products their people have created. The iPod, the iPhone, the Mac, all great things but an odd thing to reference for an all-services event. 

Tim Cook came on stage to introduce the notion of services as a third pillar of Apple’s work, alongside the software and hardware. He referenced many of the services Apple provides today, like their podcast directory, and photo storage with sync.

Apple News+

Cook talked about Apple’s News app and said that it is the #1 news app due to Apple having over 5 billion articles read by readers each month. It isn’t immediately clear if there are other benchmarks available to compare, and no chart was displayed on-stage for this claim.

After a video about how important written and photographic journalism is, Cook introduced VP of Applications Roger Rosner to talk about their subscription service for news and magazines. Rosner said their subscription would cover over 300 magazines. Last year, Apple acquired a digital magazine subscription service called Texture, at the time Apple boasted that Texture had over 200 magazines.

Rosner introduced Wyatt Mitchell, Apple’s Director of Design for Applications, who has worked at numerous magazines in the past, to demo News+. Mitchell introduced a redesigned News app and an issue of National Geographic inside it, with a video cover surrounded by the traditional yellow border.

Mitchell also showed the new News+ tab in the redesigned News app, and talked about how the app would automatically download recent issues so you have them available offline, demonstrated some of the other navigation features, and went back up the stack by handing off back to Rosner. If you don’t sign up, your News app is now less useful and has a tab you don’t want.

Rosner said News+ include subscriptions to various online news sites and papers like the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

Rosner highlighted that Apple doesn’t know what you read, by making recommendations on-device instead of on their servers, and doesn’t allow tracking from advertisers in the News app. Essentially a shot at what the websites for these magazines and newspapers have had to give up to to advertisers in order to keep paying their executives and investors.

Rosner said there has never been a service like this before, which is extremely suspect given that Apple acquired the magazine portion of this service, which already existed. Rosner then continued to talk about how these magazine and newspaper subscriptions would normally cost a ridiculous amount of money each year if you were to subscribe to each individually, in order to provide context for the final price of $10 per month. Family sharing members get access without an additional fee, Apple’s Apple Music streaming music service is $15/month for families or $10 for individuals, as an example.

News+ is available in yesterday’s macOS (10.14.4) and iOS (12.2) updates.

Apple’s News app has been notoriously unavailable in Canada, and will now finally be available there in French and English alongside Canadien newspaper, The Star. News+ hits Australia and the UK this Fall.

Apple Pay & Apple’s Credit Card

Cook took things back to talk about growing Apple Pay statistics, and mention that Portland (Oregon) would be getting transit passes through the Wallet app alongside New York City and Chicago. This has been available in some other places like Japan for some time.

Cook talked about their perceived problems (ease of application, privacy, etc) with credit cards and introduced VP of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey to talk about their Apple Card credit card through Goldman Sachs and Mastercard.

Bailey demonstrated how the Wallet app would show charts to help people understand their spending, and how people could text Apple to handle issues with the card like changing an address. I’m not sure why we need to text to handle something that could be done via a user interface experience, but it’s more likely that Apple just wanted something easy to demonstrate that wasn’t fraught with the usual anxiety around a stolen card or other issues.

Bailey promised that Apple had used machine learning to change the transaction logs and statement to make them easier to understand, and would associate the useless info we usually get on a statement into the name of an actual business. As an example, they used an animation to transform an address from a line on a normal statement into a named 7-11 location.

Bailey moved on to talking about rewards programs, and how hard typical credit cards make it to understand the value of their points. Bailey said that Apple’s rewards (called Daily Cash) are given to you directly as cash sent to your Apple Pay Cash account each day, which is a different tool that is already in the Wallet app. The Apple Pay Cash competes with similar digital debit cards from Square and other companies. The Apple Card credit rewards would be given back to you as 2% of the purchase amount whenever you use Apple Pay. Retail and digital purchases at Apple stores or through Apple’s services would get 3% cash back.

Most credit rewards programs are given after a new statement, so a daily payout could be better, but I imagine the credit card companies feel the pennies they give back to their customers are more impressive when it’s 20 bucks at the end of the billing cycle instead of 16 cents the next morning.

Usurious interest rates and statements “designed to keep you paying the minimum each month” was the next topic from Bailey. She demonstrated the UX for paying off Apple’s credit card that she claimed would help people understand how much interest they would accrue if they only paid a minimum amount.

Bailey promised that the Apple credit card would have “no fees” for late payment, annual fees, international fees, or fees for going over your limit, and it would have “lower interest rates” without penalty rates.

Security and privacy were the final subjects, Bailey said that Apple wouldn’t know what you bought, where you bought it, or how much you paid for it, and promised that the graphs and other information were all rendered on the device. Goldman Sachs and Mastercard presumably would have to know these things, of course, but Bailey promised that they (the bank and credit card middleman) would not share this data with third parties.

A very short video showed how Apple created the physical card for non-Apple Pay transactions. It’s made out of titanium and has no visible number, CVV, expiration, or signature, only your name and branding from the companies involved. Hiding the numbers on the front and back is probably not that useful. They’re all in the magnetic stripe and unless the stripe can change dynamically, there won’t be much of a benefit to people using the card. As frustrating as it can be to have a credit card stolen, it’ll probably be more frustrating to open the Wallet app to get the digits each time you need them for any online transaction that doesn’t take Apple Pay.

The physical card only gives 1% cash back, and presumably the magstripe isn’t updated like the one in the digital wallet so you’ll always have the same number and limited security on the physical card.

The Apple Card credit card will be available this summer.

Apple Arcade

Cook returned to introduce Ann Thai, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Apple’s App Store to talk about games, the positive culture around them, and Apple’s commitment to them before introducing their Apple Arcade game subscription service.

Thai introduced a video that has designers and developers talking about their games. Beyond A Steel Sky, Where Cards Fall, Sakaguchi with Fantasian, Lifelike, Bekah Saltsman with Overland. Thai returned to talk about the Arcade subscription that she says includes over a hundred games that are mobile exclusive (presumably that means phones and tablets, and not precluding versions for the Nintendo Switch). “We’ll be adding new games all the time.” makes me wonder if games be removed all the time, too.

Thai says that the subscription will be found in a new app store tab and on the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac computers and the games will have cloud saves so you be more seamlessly able to swap devices. Pour one out for Game Center. 

As a poke at Google’s recently announced game streaming service, Thai mentioned that these games would be playable offline. No features or content would be excluded behind in-app purchases (IAP) and there would be no advertisements in the games.

Thai said that Apple wouldn’t share your info with the companies making the games, and that this subscription would also have no additional charge for family sharing before introducing a montage video featuring more games that would be on the service.

Apple Arcade launches this fall, no price was given yet.

Apple TV Channels Subscriptions

Cook took the stage again to talk about Apple’s plans for TV. Peter Stern was introduced to talk about the redesigned Apple TV app on their devices and the integration of various third-party live and on-demand streaming TV bundles under the new marketing umbrella of Apple TV Channels.

The “Apple Channels” subscriptions look like you just have access to the smaller name subscription services that you typically would go to a third party app for. Not Amazon Prime Video or Netflix, but HBO, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, and so on. They’ll probably be the same price, just embedded inside the Apple TV app so you don’t have to leave that app.

Cindy Lin was introduced by Stern to do the app demo. Lin accidentally scrolled down instead of over because the Apple TV remote is a beautiful piece of shit that Apple hasn’t done anything to fix in years.

It looks like this app has the same problem as Netflix, trailers that autoplay when you scroll onto the page for a show. I hate that part of Netflix, the last thing I want to have happen when my kid is in the room or when I’m idly browsing through shows or movies is to have anything autoplay a trailer for an inappropriate, and loud, show.

Stern returned to tell us that the new Apple TV app is out this May, the app is also coming out this Fall for macOS. It’ll also be on Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio televisions as well as Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV devices that hook up to your television.

It isn’t clear yet if those television makers are skimming what you watch when you use the Apple TV app on their TVs as they do for everything else you watch. It can probably be assumed that they do, and they can already do that if you hook an Apple TV box up to an HDMI port. Any contract they have with Apple might prevent it for both scenarios or none.

Apple TV+

Cook introduced us to Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to talk about Apple’s plans for original video programming under the banner of Apple TV+. I am not sure how much I buy their compassion for stories that they’re telling us so much about. They introduced a video from various directors and actors talking about their work. Steven Spielberg started it out, and then showed up on stage to talk about how he got started and introduce a show based on Amazing Stories, the elder statesman of long-running science fiction magazines at over 90 years.

After talking about the idea for a TV show for a bit, and not showing any footage, Spielberg disappeared when some stage lights went down and he was replaced by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon to announce their TV show called “The Morning Show.” It’s a comedy about a morning show.

Steve Carell joined them onstage to have more relatable celebrity banter about how funny they are.

The stage blackout ate another cast and replaced those three celebrities with two others, Jason Momoa (Aquaman) and Alfre Woodard (Mariah Stokes/Dillard in Luke Cage on Netflix) introduced their show, See, about a planet where nobody can see and everybody is blind.

Kumail Nanjiani appeared after the next blackout to tell us about his show, Little America, about different stories of immigrants in the US before the blackout consumed him.

Big Bird of Sesame Street came by the darkest place he’s ever been, an Apple stage with another Jim Henson style muppet to announce a show called Helpsters that teaches coding.

J.J. Abrams appeared after the blackout with Sara Bareilles to talk about their show called Little Voice. Bareilles then sat at a piano and performed the title song for the show. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her perform but she is obviously extremely talented.

Finally, this too-long bit wrapped up with a promise of the “highest quality storytelling” and a montage video that actually had footage from some of these shows.

Apple TV+ is promised for this Fall. No price announced, and no ad tier bullshit, at least.

Tim Cook returned to introduce Oprah Winfrey as the “one more thing,” who talked about her shows for the platform.

Overall

I have no interest in any of the shows Apple is putting forward, because we don’t really know anything about them. They could be good, but no critics have seen them yet. We’re not supposed to make fun of Planet of the Apps anymore, but it was complete garbage even if it was created by other people who aren’t working on Apple’s TV programs anymore. I have a little bit more hope that these programs could be good, but only a little.

News+ is probably fine, but it isn’t clear how much of those top papers you’re getting, and how much of that will just be magazines that aren’t that informative or useful. It could be useful if there were local newspapers involved, but only a handful of big papers are integrating with News+. It isn’t clear yet if the subscription could be good for smaller papers or a weight to drag them down.

The Arcade subscription could be a good deal for players and developers to get us out of the rut mobile gaming is in where too many good games are ruined by the free-to-play business model or buried with ads. Can you even get a match-3 game on iOS without an energy mechanic or some other garbage hidden behind consumable IAP? Apple made the mess, is profiting from it, and does too little to stop it. The subscription might not be the worst thing, I hope the games that come out of it are eventually available for purchase separately, especially on platforms that have a better possibility for archival.

I don’t like how rent-seeking Apple has been and continues to be. The credit card is perhaps the worst example of that. The card could be better than most others, it’s difficult to be worse, but watching Apple’s executives onstage with literal dollar signs behind them is not a good look and they were correctly roasted online for it.

If you let them, Apple will provide you with every kind of media you consume to the exclusion of all others. Apple’s executives want us to pay them $1500 for an iPhone on an installment plan, use the Apple credit card to pay them rent for our photo and video storage (which is still limited to 5GB a month on the free tier), listen to music, watch TV, enjoy movies and play games through their subscription services. The only allowable criticism and journalism is read through Apple News and Apple’s internal editorial teams vacuum up talented journalists who go without any kind of byline when their writing appears in Apple’s App Stores and elsewhere.

 

Apple is already doing everything they can to run affiliate linking editorial out of town on a rail, and almost took Touch Arcade with them.

I miss the days where Apple was focused on products and services in their wheelhouse instead of this rush to expand into every possible business to continue their never-ending quest for increased growth. These new services probably aren’t taking personnel from those products, but they’re clearly taking executive focus. Today’s Apple can’t even ship a laptop keyboard that works.

Apple’s WWDC 2018 Event Notes

Here’s everything that Apple announced today.

Keynote

Here’s everything that Apple announced at their World Wide Developer’s Conference Keynote for 2018. The event opened with this four-minute nature documentary style advertisement on migrating developers:

iOS 12
Craig Federighi boasted about iOS 11 being available on iOS devices from 2013, and that the majority of their users are on 11 versus the 6% they claim are on the latest Android update. According to Google, the percentage of Android users running their latest operating system (Android 8.1) is 0.8%, ouch. I would guess that Apple based their estimate on the percentage of devices that are capable of running 8.0 or 8.1, which is 4.9% and 0.8% respectively. The majority of Android users (25.5%) appear to still be in the stone age on Android 6.0.

According to Federighi the primary focus of iOS 12 will be performance, specifically he said that older devices would perform better. Using an iPhone 6 Plus as an example, Federighi claimed that apps would launch 40% faster, the keyboard would display 50% faster, the camera would open 70% faster.

USDZ
Because this keynote is ostensibly for developers, Federighi announced a new format for 3D scenes to be bundled together, USDZ. Pixar created the USD format in 2012, and this is their update to it for 2018 (thanks to coolpowers).

Adobe’s CTO Abhay Parasnis announced that their products would support the new format and that Apple’s developer State of the Union would have some kind of demo of this integration.

Measure
Federighi announced a new app for augmented reality, Measure, which will presumably replace everyone’s first ARKit app by giving you measurements for real-world objects. The app can detect some shapes and automatically provide measurements for those, but you’ll need to tap at the ends or corners of most real-world objects to get the app to measure them.

Apple’s USDZ Demos
Federighi showed off a USDZ 3D scene of a fish embedded in their Apple News app, and then customized a guitar on Fender’s web store only to display it on the stage through an iPad’s AR viewfinder.

LegoARKit 2
Federighi said that iOS 12 would include a new version of their ARKit API for developers to create augmented reality experiences. The flagship feature for ARKit 2, shared experiences, allows multiple devices to view and interact with the same scene. A slide depicted a pre-recorded video of people playing a multiplayer AR game where both participants and an observer could see and interact.

Martin Sanders, the Director of Innovation at Lego, demonstrated the new object detection features of ARKit along with shared experiences by scanning a physical Lego set and then awkwardly holding two iPads around it with someone else from the Lego company. The iPads showed a city being built around the town square Lego set with some limited interactivity to place vehicles and minifigures. It looked like it could be fun, but this kind of AR scanning will probably be limited to sets that Lego produces, not the modifications people make to them. Sanders said that the Lego AR experience app would ship later this year.

Search in photos

Photos Search & For You
Federighi said that Photos would improve in iOS 12. He highlighted the search functionality that would offer suggestions and other improvements to help you find photos you’re looking for. The app will also get a new tab, For You, that offers suggestions of photos you might like to see or ways you could change them to make them more appealing. It seemed like the editing suggestions were limited to ones that involve Apple’s features like looping a live photo or making some specific change to a portrait photo.

The For You tab will also suggest sharing photos with people who appear in them. He said that they would be shared at full resolution, which is an improvement because photos shared today aren’t at the original resolution. Federighi also said that the recipient of shared photos would be prompted to share photos from the same event so that everyone ends up with the entire set.

Siri Shortcuts
Federighi mentioned a new feature called shortcuts that would let Siri easily start functions of other apps. The first example was “I lost my keys” which would have Siri open part of the Tile app’s functionality within Siri and look for them. Apps in iOS 12 would make suggestions of shortcuts to add to Siri. The iOS 12 lock screen and search will make suggestions of things to do like re-ordering coffee or turning on Do Not Disturb when you’re at a movie theater.

Federighi said that you’d be able to make your own shortcuts in a new “Shortcuts Editor” app.

Shortcuts editor

Apple’s Kim Beverett demonstrated the shortcuts functionality with a few examples. One of which was adjusting a shortcut she made in the Shortcut Editor. Beverett’s Heading Home shortcut would compress a bunch of steps into one action. It lets her roommate know how long it’ll take her to get home, set her thermostat to 70 degrees and turns on a fan, and opens maps with the course home preconfigured. Beverett quickly used the editor to play a radio program she wanted to listen to every time she goes home whenever she uses the shortcut. This Shortcut Editor is clearly the Workflow app that Apple acquired last year.

Other App Updates
Apple’s Susan Prescott demonstrated a few other iOS 12 app updates. Apple News is going from a 5 tab interface to 3 tabs with a new tab called Browse to handle the functionality from the current Search and Following tabs.

The Stocks app is completely rebuilt, and has business news built-in and new charts. The app will also be on the iPad.

Voice Memos is “even easier to use” and is also on the iPad, it’ll also use iCloud for file synchronization.

iBooks is getting refurbished with a new name and interface, it’s just Apple Books on iOS 12.

CarPlay is going to support 3rd party navigation apps.

Dnd

Do Not Disturb
Federighi returned to show us how iOS’ Do Not Disturb will be updated with a new feature called Do Not Disturb During Bedtime. It will hide notifications so you won’t be “barraged” with them if you wake up in the middle of the night and just want to see what time it is. You can also granularly enable Do Not Disturb until you leave a location or for a certain amount of time.

Notification Updates & The Screen Time App
You’ll be able to change the way notifications are delivered, or turn them off entirely, directly from the lock screen. You’ll also get suggestions to disable them for specific apps when you rarely interact with them.

Notifications will also be grouped together by what app sent them.

The Screen Time app will give you a weekly report of how you’re wasting your life on your devices. It’ll also let you set time limits for each app. You’ll get reminders about that limit when you’re about to reach it, or you can set limits for the apps your kids use by category or by picking each specific app.

 

Animoji

Animoji & MeMoji
Animoji are getting updated to let you stick out your tongue with your 3D avatar, they’re also getting four new characters. The ghost, koala, tiger, and t-rex. You can also make a character based on your own face, Apple calls that a “MeMoji.”

Kelsey Peterson demonstrated these effects on stage, and the selfie camera can now display the characters over your real face.

Facetime
Facetime can now have up to 32 people on a group video chat. It can be launched directly from a group text message chat in Messages. The different camera effects, like Animoji, are also available on Facetime.

WatchOS 5
Apple’s Kevin Lynch talked about new improvements for fitness and communications.

WatchOS 5 is getting improvements to compete with your friends in exercise. The Workouts app is getting a Yoga workout type, hiking, running gets a rolling pace measurement, pace alerts, and cadence measurements. WatchOS 5 will also automatically detect when you’ve started some types of workouts, it’ll retroactively credit you with the workout if you tell the Apple Watch to start the workout late.

There’s a Walkie-Talkie app for WatchOS 5 that goes over cellular or wifi connections.

The Siri watch face is getting information about sports, map information, and your heart rate. Siri Shortcuts will be on that Watch Face, as well as third-party apps.

Raising your wrist will let you talk to Siri right away, you won’t need to use the “Hey Siri” hotword.

Watch notifications

Notifications can also be more interactive, like on the phone. One example was getting a notification from Yelp about a dinner reservation

Apple’s WebKit embedded browser will be available for some web links on the Apple Watch.

The Podcasts app is going to work on the watch, it’ll sync full episodes from your phone.

Apple’s Julz demonstrated these new features while riding an exercise bike, which was pretty impressive.

Kevin Lynch returned to tell us about Student ID Cards coming to the watch, it’ll work with just 6 universities to start, but it includes Temple University in Philadelphia.

Lynch also introduced a new rainbow watch band and watch face for Pride month. The watch face is supposed to be available today.

Apple TV 4K
Apple’s Jen Folse talked about how the Apple TV 4K from last year is getting Dolby Atmos in the next version of tvOS, she also talked about how movies will get free upgrades to support the new audio format.

Folse reiterated Apple’s support for live TV and sports.

Folse also said that various cable providers are letting their users replace their cable boxes with the Apple TV, and use a new “Zero Sign-On” instead of the single sign-on system from last year.

The Aerial screensaver on the Apple TV is going to tell you what you’re looking at, finally. It’ll also get a new view from the International Space Station of the Earth.

Mojave

macOS Mojave
Craig Federighi returned to talk about the new features in macOS Mojave.

As Apple leaked, the next version of macOS is getting a dark mode. Previously you could dim the menu bar dock in their settings, but this is a system-wide feature that is more complete.

Desktop Stacks is another new feature that organizes the crap that gets scattered all over your desktop into stacks of documents matched by type, or date, or by tags. It’ll automatically keep those stacks organized as new files are added to the desktop.

Finder gets a new Gallery View that appears to replace the Cover Flow view with thumbnails at the bottom of the screen and a quick look type of view at the top.

The Finder is also getting a detail side bar with shortcuts to different actions you might like to take on the file, Federighi specifically mentioned adding customized automator actions to the side bar for certain types of files like watermarking files with one that was put together earlier.

The quick look utility is enhanced to let you do more from it, Federighi demonstrated trimming a video without opening a separate editor and signing a PDF document.

Screenshots are enhanced to be similar to the iOS functionality but with more powerful functionality that you’d expect on a computer. You can also capture video directly from that utility now.

The Continuity Camera feature was demonstrated by Federighi to take a photo from his phone and pop it directly into a Keynote slide. It can also scan in documents from your phone directly into a Mac app.

A few iOS apps are hitting the Mac. Apple News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home for using HomeKit devices.

Mac voice memos

Privacy
Mojave will have better privacy enhancements to prevent other apps from getting access to your personal data unless you want them to do so.

Safari on Mojave and iOS 12 will prevent advertising publishers from tracking you based on sharing functions and comment fields. Mojave and iOS 12 will also hide more of your information from being fingerprinted by websites and advertising publishers.

New mac app store

Mac App Store
The Mac App Store is finally getting updated, it hasn’t had many changes since 2011. Apple’s Ann Thai showed off a redesigned UI that takes a lot from their iOS App Store. It looks much better.

Metal & Core ML on iOS and macOS
Federighi returned to talk about Apple’s Metal graphics and computation API and external GPUs. He boasted about the speedups that Macs can get from up to four GPUs. It’s kind of crazy that the only GPUs that Apple supports for external GPUs are from AMD.

Apple’s machine learning API, Core ML, is getting updated with a 2nd version. It’s supposed to be 30% faster with a 75% reduction in the model size.

UIKit on the Mac
As has been rumored, Apple is making it easier to bring iOS apps to macOS. No specific name was given for this technology, but Federighi says they’re using it internally with apps like Apple News and promises that it’ll be available for 3rd-party developers next year.

Release Dates for iOS 12 and macOS Mojave
“This fall”

Overall
I’m very happy that macOS is getting updated with a new Mac App Store, it’s been way too long and developers have been abandoning it for independent distribution systems. I like having apps bundled into one store, but it’s also good that Apple finally wants to compete with independent distribution.

It’s a little disappointing that the iPad Pro didn’t get updated with this event, but perhaps they’re moving the majority of hardware updates to the Fall event.

I’m very happy to see that Workflow is still getting updated, and it looks like it is even more useful after Apple has updated it under the Siri banner. I wish that it were on the Mac as an alternative to Automator.

An iPad Cheap for 2018

Apple announced an updated iPad Cheap today.

IPad 9 7 inch Pencil Slider 32718

Apple announced a new iPad with a bunch of backslapping about how much they love education today at their event held at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago. It’s an updated version of last year’s iPad Cheap with an A10 system-on-a-chip that also works with their stylus, the Pencil. The 2018 iPad Cheap is still missing a ton from the more expensive iPad Pro line, like more modern display technology with a variable framerate. The iPad Mini still hasn’t been updated in almost 3 years despite Apple charging $400 for the iPad Mini 4 versus $330 for this new iPad Cheap.

As usual, I round numbers up to the nearest whole dollar because I don’t care for deceptive pricing.

Here’s an updated rundown of their iPad lineup:

  • 2018 iPad Cheap at 9.7
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A10 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • Supports the ($100) Apple Pencil.
    • Old ass 1st generation Touch ID.
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 4 at 7.9
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • A8 processor
    • 2GB RAM
    • 128GB ($400) wifi only
    • 128GB ($530) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 12.9
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector
    • 64GB ($800) 256GB ($950) wifi only 512GB ($1150)
    • 64GB ($930) 256GB ($1080) and 512GB ($1280) with cellular
  • iPad Pro at 10.5
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • A10X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • Smart connector
    • 64GB ($650) 256GB ($800) 512GB ($1000) wifi only
    • 64GB ($780) 256GB ($930) 512GB ($1130) with cellular

Since I last revisited the table of confusing iPad decisions, Apple bumped up the price of some storage tiers.

Apple also updated their free iWork office utilities today with new features like smart annotation. Additionally, they announced other software for educators, students, and developers who want to work with the new ClassKit API.

New hardware was announced from Logitech, including a cut-down $50 version of Apple’s Pencil, called the Crayon that lacks pressure sensitivity but has a better external design for normal human beings. It appears that this device will only be sold through educational sales channels.

One good thing that Apple announced is that students and teachers get 200GB of iCloud storage as long as the Apple ID they use is managed through their organization. Regular iCloud accounts have a tiny 5GB of storage for all their photos and other data. Apple typically charges $3 per month for 200GB of iCloud storage.

Apple’s extended warranty program with accidental damage insurance was dropped in price to $70 for this iPad Cheap as well as the Mini.

Overall, I don’t think that this new iPad Cheap is at all an approachable device for many educators who are still scrounging for basic materials like paper and pencils, while their students are dealing with hunger and homelessness. The $30 discount offered for schools who want to buy this new iPad Cheap is probably meaningful with large purchases, but it won’t mean anything for the poorest schools and students.

The education theme of the event is an extension of the ongoing co-option of public resources by private businesses. Just like NASA ceding their public work and research to private industries, using expensive closed platforms for public schools is not a good look. One Apple presenter even referenced JFK’s “We Choose to go to The Moon” speech.

Apple spend a large part of the presentation advocating for the iPad as a device for creation, but also for coding software. To treat the iPad as a replacement for the modern computer in creative endeavors, or a device for coding, is especially ridiculous when you realize that you can’t ship a game or app for Apple’s app store without using a Mac. iPads don’t have Xcode.

For anyone else who wants an iPad with support for Apple’s Pencil stylus, almost as much processing power as the current Pro models, but is OK giving up enhanced display technologies and half the RAM, the 2018 iPad Cheap is a fine choice and a decent upgrade to last year’s model. It’s available today and I would expect more updates to the iPad line later this year.

Apple Special Event September 2017 Notes

Apple held their first iPhone event at their new Steve Jobs Theater on their UFO campus in California today. The event opened with Tim Cook memorializing Jobs. Then he discussed disaster relief projects and encouraged donations. Finally Cook talked about Apple’s new campus. No mentions of offices for the engineers, who have complained that the new campus is almost entirely an open space.

Angela Ahrendts talked about their stores before Cook came back out to start announcing devices and software.

Here’s what they announced.

WatchOS 4
Tim Cook talked about their success then played a video featuring letters from users about how the watch has helped them. Here’s that video:

Jeff Williams reiterated WatchOS 4 updates with better coaching, a redesigned workout app, features for swimmers, and integration with gym equipment. The new OS also gets a new heart rate app and a heart rate complication for the watch faces. The watch will now alert you to an unusually high heart rate when it thinks you’re not active. It’ll also monitor for arrhythmias in a study with Stanford Medicine and the FDA later this year.

WatchOS 4 will be out on September 19th.

Apple Watch Series 3
Here’s their ad for the new Series 3 watch:

It’s a cellular device that takes calls with your regular iPhone’s phone number. Of course it’ll also have data capabilities and will stream music from Apple Music.

There’s a new faster processor and Siri finally speaks on the watch if you want to hear them instead of reading a response. The device also has a barometric altimeter built-in.

The Series 3 Apple Watch retains the form factor of the previous watches. Cellular models of the Series 3 have a red dot on the crown so that you can feel special.

Williams made a very awful joke during this presentation about a potential device with all of this functionality looking like a house arrest bracelet. Not funny.

Obviously Apple is very focused on this being an activity monitoring device. I’m not very active but I still appreciate mine as a device for triaging notifications.

Series 2 watches are getting dropped. The Series 1 will remain in the lineup at $250. The base series 3 watch will be $330 and the Series 3 with cellular capabilities will be $400.

No word on the cost for the cellular plan to go with it, but Williams said they have a special deal worked out with some carriers.

The new Series 3 watches will be available to pre-order on September 15th, they’ll be generally available on September 22nd.

I don’t see much reason to upgrade from my Series 0, but I’m glad they’re continuing to work on improvements.

Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV is one of the most expensive devices you can buy to put under your TV, and it has been a long time since Apple made any changes to the hardware. Eddy Cue’s pitch for this upgrade talked about how the new device also includes support for HDR standards. It also has an A10X Fusion chip, Eddy reminds us that it’s same one as in the iPad Pro. He boasted that it’s twice as fast at general computing tasks — and four times as fast on the GPU side — as the current 1080p 4th generation Apple TV.

Apple’s Aerial screensaver that displays high-resolution footage of interesting places to look at is getting updated with 4K footage.

4K movies will cost the same from Apple’s iTunes store as they currently charge for HD films. Any movies people currently own in HD that have 4K versions will be upgraded to 4K HDR for free.

Cue also said that Netflix and Amazon are on-board for the 4K update. Cue didn’t mention that the Amazon Prime Video app still isn’t available on the Apple TV even though Apple said they had a deal worked out with Amazon earlier this year.

Live news and sports are coming to the TV app on the Apple TV and iOS devices.

That Game Company’s Jenova Chen demoed a new game called Sky for the Apple TV. It’s a fun multiplayer game that has a similar style as their previous games like Journey. It’s temporarily exclusive to the Apple TV and iOS devices and will be out this winter. I didn’t hear anyone mention if the game runs in 4K.

Here’s a trailer for it:

The Apple TV lineup will now be:

  • Old Apple TV 32GB at $150.
  • Apple TV 4K 32GB $180
  • Apple TV 4K 64GB $200

It’ll be up for pre-orders on the 15th and have general availability on the 22nd.

Unfortunately there were no updates to the Apple TV Siri Remote announced, which is a shame because it’s not great for gaming and has some other design issues. Especially regarding picking up the remote and accidentally pressing the wrong button because it’s not easy to tell which orientation you’re holding it in without looking at it.

iPhone 8, 8 Plus

The rumors and leaks were accurate , there were three new iPhones announced today instead of two. An iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus.

Here’s the iPhone 8 ad:

Phil Schiller did his bit to sell the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. As rumored it has a glass back as well the front. It’ll be in Silver, Space Gray, and Gold. They assure that the glass is reinforced with steel and the “most durable ever” glass.

The display has been updated. It now has the True Tone technology from the iPad Pro that adjusts the display’s color temperature to look correct in different lighting conditions. The iPad Pro still doesn’t have the iPhone’s 3D Touch feature and that makes writing on it a little bit more frustrating when I switch back and forth between my iPhone and iPad.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus speakers are louder and more accurate.

There’s a new A11 Bionic chip with six cores inside the iPhone 8. It’s supposedly 25% faster than the A10. Two of the six A11 cores are tuned for performance, and four of the cores are set up for tasks that can run efficiently and don’t require as much performance so that the device can save you some battery life. Those four low-power cores are supposedly 70% faster than the ones in the A10 chip.

The GPU on the 8 is the first one Apple has developed, it’s supposed to be 30% faster than last year’s A10 while taking half the power.

There’s a new image processing engine in the A11 that Schiller says will deliver faster autofocus in low-light conditions among other improvements that should make photos taken with the 8 look sharper and have less noise.

The cameras still shoot 12 megapixels, but Apple says that the sensor is larger and lets in more light. The Plus still has the exclusive on the dual camera setup versus the regular iPhone 8.

Apple’s photos captured with the 8 and 8 Plus’ cameras look fantastic, but they are just demonstrating the difference between an experienced photographer shooting for demonstration purposes and someone taking snapshots. Of course these camera improvements will help with either type of scenario, but they’re not going to turn Frank G. iPhoneOwner into a pro photographer unless they’re interested enough to edit their photos and think about what they’re doing before taking the photo.

Schiller says that there will be a new feature called Portrait Lighting in beta for the iPhone 8 Plus. He promises that this feature will be more than a filter, it’ll present you with different lighting choices for your subject in Portrait Mode within Apple’s Camera app. You’ll be able to edit those photos and choose different lighting scenarios after the fact.

Phil Schiller also promised that these phones have better video quality. You’ll be able to record 4K videos at 60 frames-per-second and if you like slo-mo you’ll be able to record 1080p video at 240 FPS.

Schiller says that the cameras and the A11 are also configured for augmented reality. The demos I have seen for AR on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are impressive, it could be useful to have a focus on AR in the hardware as well. Schiller played pre-recorded AR demos of a Warhammer game, an MLB overlay on a live game at a stadium, and an astronomy app called Sky Guide overlaying star charts directly on the sky as viewed through an iPhone.

Directive Games’ Atli Mar demoed their AR game, The Machines. It looked a little bit like an RTS but overlaid on a table. Mar said that there was a strategic advantage to being able to move the game’s camera around by moving the physical phone, but I’m not sure if that lines up with reality. It looked almost as awkward as the AR demo from WWDC but it is very difficult to play a game for an audience and line up your view to present something cinematic, especially in front of a live audience.

The iPhone 8 also has “wireless charging” which is just contact charging, it isn’t truly wireless. It’ll use the Qi charging standard that is already widely supported. It’s good that Apple didn’t make another standard, but they aren’t including a contact charging device in the box.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be up for pre-order on September 15th and available in-stores on September 22nd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

iPhone 8

  • 64 GB for $700
  • 256 GB for $850

iPhone 8 Plus

  • 64GB for $800
  • 256GB for $950

iOS 11 will be out on September 19th.

iPhone X

Apple’s surprise of the iPhone X was spoiled by leaks and rumors, I was pretty disgusted with some journalists who took umbrage with the person who leaked the information. It’s only in Apple’s promotional interests to keep these things a secret and they aren’t going to affect our national security.

Here’s the iPhone X ad:

 

Phil Schiller called it “the iPhone 10,” skipping 9, I wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not at first, but then they continued it and I guess this is just what it is now.

The X’s OLED display is 5.8 inches diagonally and continues the journey to a rounded rectangular slab that is all display without any border. It’s almost there, there’s just a notch at the top of the phone for the front-facing camera, earpiece, and other sensors. Apple calls this new display a “Super Retina Display” at 2436×1125 pixels and  It’s 458 pixels-per-inch. So you’re getting a display that’s larger than the Plus and has more resolution in a smaller package. It’s also got an HDR standard for films and Apple’s True Tone tech.

Last year we lost the headphone TRSS jack and the home button was replaced with a simulation that I’ve grown accustomed to. This year the home button is just gone. You can wake the phone up by tapping on the display when it is in sleep mode.

iOS has other changes to accommodate the lack of a home button, of course. To get to the home screen from a “locked” iPhone X you now just swipe up from the bottom of the screen. It’s the same gesture when you’re in an app. Pausing mid-swipe, instead of raising your hand off the screen to complete the gesture, will bring up the multitasking switcher to choose from your recent apps.

I’m curious how that will work out with games. This overloading of gestures is a lot for users to take in.

The iPhone X’s sleep/wake switch is larger and can also be used to activate Siri.

Without a home button there isn’t room for a sensor to read your fingerprint for TouchID, so the iPhone X will have a face recognition system that Apple calls FaceID. Phil Schiller assures us that new sensors at the top of the phone in the notch will securely detect your face, even in the dark, to authorize your iPhone to be unlocked or in other places where you use TouchID. Including with Apple Pay.

Phil Schiller’s pitch for FaceID included a terrifying image of a wall of fake faces that Apple’s engineers used to test the face unlocking feature.

Apple are making an API available to developers for accessing the kinect-style data from the sensors on the front of the iPhone. They’re using the sensors internally to make 12 animated emojis that respond to your face and can be recorded along with audio messages to send over iMessage. Snapchat was demonstrated with it for face masking as well. They had a pretty impressive Ultimate Warrior style mask.

Craig Federighi demonstrated the iPhone X and showed that you can access the new iOS 11 Control Center by swiping down from the upper right corner where the connection status indicators are.

Phil Schiller boasted about the iPhone X cameras, they’re even better than the ones in the iPhone 8 Plus with optical image stabilization on both cameras. The front-facing camera is supposed to be better for selfies as well.

The iPhone X is supposed to get 2 more hours of battery life over the base iPhone 7, and have the same Qi charging as the 8.

The iPhone X will be up for pre-order on October 27th and shipping on November 3rd. Here are the prices for different configurations:

  • 64GB for $1000
  • 256GB for $1150

AirPower & Updated AirPods

Apple also has a new oval Qi charging mat coming out next year that will charge the iPhone 8 and X, as well as their Apple Watch and a new case for the AirPods that Phil Schiller said was “optional.” I’m not sure yet if “optional” means a more expensive set of AirPods or a separate purchase after the fact or both. I’d hope I could upgrade my current AirPods with a one-time purchase.

Overall:
I’m kind of disappointed with the pitch for the iPhone 8 versus the iPhone X. I don’t think I would personally want the iPhone 8 or 8 Plus when there’s an iPhone X available. Although I’m sure the iPhone X will not be available in as large a quantity as the 8. I also am not looking forward to an upgrade to the AirPods already. They don’t seem like something that should change as often, but I guess it might end up being similar to the Watch where there are updates but they seem less necessary than the phone.

I’m very disappointed that Apple is calling contact charging “wireless” when there are wires involved and you can’t just hold your iPhone five feet from the AirPower dingus to charge it.