Apple WWDC 2019 Event Notes

Apple held their annual World-Wide Developer Conference event in San Jose, California today. Here’s what they announced:

The event opened with this ad romanticizing overworked developers.

Tim Cook’s Services Showcase

Tim Cook hosted and reiterated how great he thinks Apple is, and briefly recapped their services event. As if to fix their perplexing lack of trailers or clips of their original TV programming (Apple TV+) from the services event, Cook introduced a clip for For All Mankind. It’s the Ron Moore-led show about the Russians winning the space race, and it was extremely incongruous with the rest of the event.

tvOS Updates

Cook introduced a redesigned home-screen for tvOS with full-screen background previews of shows.

Up next, multi-user support for tvOS so you only see your shows. A blessing for parents who never wanted Game of Thrones mixed with Sesame Street. Unless it’s in a Sesame Street parody of Game of Thrones, which I am ready for.

As an aside, Cook showed how you could swap users in tvOS using a new control-center menu that looks like it is available via a swipe in from the right.

The components in the new tvOS control center showed the time, date, profile pictures for the different tvOS users, a quick option to put the Apple TV to sleep, music controls, the audio output dingus which will be handy for AirPod users, and a search icon.

Cook showed that users would have personalized music options, again, my recommendations will no-longer be destroyed by the music I play for my family. Fantastic. This multi-user stuff needs to be on every Apple device.

The updated Apple Music app for tvOS would display lyrics while you’re listening.

Apple Arcade was demonstrated with Oceanhorn 2.

Cook promised that the Apple TV would now support the Xbox One S and the PlayStation Dual Shock 4 controllers, which both have Bluetooth functionality. This is fantastic because the only MFi controller that has clickable thumbsticks is wired. I believe this functionality is coming to iOS as well.

Screensavers are getting updated with underwater vistas in collaboration with the BBC’s Natural History team.

watchOS 6

Cook boasted the current functionality of the watches Apple makes before introducing Kevin Lynch to talk about new features.

Lynch promised “more watch faces this year since the very first Apple Watch.” I think he meant that there are more new faces this year than there have ever been before.

Lynch demonstrated five new faces. A gradient face that moves an angled gradient with the minute hand. A “large numerals face” that showed the current hour in multiple languages. A modern digital face with huge chunky numbers. Finally, a hideous analog California dial with roman numerals (X, XI, I, II) above the horizontal midpoint of the watch and traditional Arabic numbers (8, 7, 5, 4) below. Finally, a new solar face that had multiple circles to represent the movement of the sun during the day.

According to Lynch he new faces would have an optional hourly chimes that they call Taptic Chimes. Each hour you’d either feel a nudge on your wrist from the “taptic engine” of the watch or if sound is on you’d hear something like a bird singing with the new modern face. This is extremely obnoxious. I can’t imagine anyone using it.

There are also new apps for the Apple Watch, an audiobook app for books purchased through Apple’s book store and a Voice Memos app to match the phone’s. Another new app is an Apple-provided calculator.

Finally, WatchOS gets apps that run only on the Watch. Previously, every Watch app had to have a companion app for the iPhone, even when that made little sense.

In the first actual nod to developers for the event, Lynch promised new APIs. An Extended Runtime API lets apps run for longer. Lynch specifically called out that this would be for apps using sensor data, like meditation, exercise, or tooth brushing.

A new-to-the-watch Streaming Audio API would let developers stream audio over the network. Three examples were given, podcasts (Outcast app), music (Pandora), and the MLB’s watch app with the Phillies versus the Brewers.

Lynch also promised a new UI framework this year.

Independent apps also mean that the watch gets its own App Store app to browse for & install new apps.

Dr. Sumbal Desai, Apple’s Vice President of Health was introduced to talk about new health and fitness features for the Watch.

Desai promised an updated Activity app with more long-term information through trending data. The updated app is supposed to provide new data points that weren’t previously exposed.

One of the new features of the Watch is the new Noise app that monitors your auditory environment and alerts you when it’s so noisy that you could damage your hearing. There’s also a complication for the watch face to display the current noise level.

Desai promised that the Noise app wouldn’t record or save audio, and instead just sample the volume every so-often.

Another new feature for the Watch is the Cycle Tracking app for period tracking. It’ll also be available in the iOS Health app.

Lynch returned to discuss a newly redesigned iOS Health app. A Summary view provides health related notifications and other summarily-provided information. He also promised that all of your health information would be private and securely-stored on your iPhone or encrypted in their data centers.

WatchOS program lead Haley Allen demonstrated the new watchOS functionality. Allen started with a new watch face, the Modular Compact face that had four items on the screen, a large analog dial in the upper right, two new complications (Wind and Rain) on the left side, and a large complication space in the bottom with an upcoming calendar item. Allen replaced the large calendar complication with a Noise complication to measure the environmental volume and had the audience cheer to raise the volume.

Allen moved on to the Infograph Modular face with a pretty cool two-tone color scheme of whte numerals with red highlights. Allen demonstrated the audiobook complication that let her tap to get back into the audiobook watch app.

The new app store was demoed, and it looks fine, although it isn’t clear how easy it will be to navigate from these short demos.

Finally, Allen demonstrated the MLB app streaming Red Sox versus Orioles game.

Lynch returned with the traditional “didn’t have time” feature jumble and mentioned that the watch would finally update itself without requiring the user to do so on their iPhone.

Lynch said there would be new watch bands and colors, he specifically called out a new pride band.

Apple shortchanges all of their retail workers equally when they make people line up for mandatory off-the-clock searches before being allowed to leave at the end of their shift.

iOS 13

Cook returned to move things back to iOS and introduced Craig Federighi who joked about the tremendous creativity behind the iOS 13 name, and then moved on to talking about how much performance has increased in current devices with the new operating system.

Federighi gave some examples and said that Face ID would be 30% faster to unlock devices.

Apps would be packaged differently for iOS 13, and would be 50% smaller to download and updates would somehow be 60% smaller. Who knows how much work is involved on the part of developers to attain those numbers, and what exactly is going on. Compression, selective assets, it could be any number of things and those could be effective or not across a wide variety of apps and games.

Apps, Federighi said, would launch twice as quickly on iOS 13.

Moving on to new features, Federighi introduced a video advertising the new iOS dark mode.

Dark Mode is a feature that debuted on macOS last year. Federighi demonstrated it in use on an iPhone, starting with the lock screen switching from a light version of a wallpaper and theme to a darker version. He moved on to News, which will no-longer blind you in the middle of the night, then swapped to the Calendar, Notes, and Messages. It’s a feature that should have been on iOS as soon as OLED screens became an option.

While in Messages Federighi demonstrated that the keyboard, also updated for dark mode, has swiping functionality. He later called it the “quick path keyboard”.

Federighi showed that the new share sheet in photos also adjusted to dark mode, and it had sharing suggestions in addition to a redesigned interface for sharing to apps and actions.

The darkness embraced the music app, which also has time-synched lyrics just like the TV Music app.

Federighi exited the darkness and talked about other app updates.

Safari is promised to have quick functionality to scale the text of the site you’re viewing, and per-site preferences.

Mail is to get “…desktop-class text formatting, including support for rich fonts.”

Notes has a new gallery overview, shared folders, and “much more.”

Reminders has been “completely reinvented” and “completely rewritten from the ground-up.” It’s supposed to give you suggestions of when or where you might want to be reminded, a quick-type bar lets you quickly add locations or photos to your reminders.

To-do lists can be embedded inside a top-level reminder for more organizational functionality. People can be tagged in a reminder so you’re reminded to talk to them about something you wanted to remember.

The Maps app is supposedly updated with new information from a fleet of Apple’s mapping vehicles. The entire US is to have the new data by the end of the year.

Meg Frost was introduced for a demonstration of the new maps app. She’s wheelchair bound and has what I can honestly say is the most awesome looking wheelchair I’ve ever seen.

The redesigned Maps app has a horizontally-scrolling list of categorized favorites under the search bar, collections of places in a vertical list, and then your recently viewed places.

Finally, there’s a street view mode with a binocular icon that launches users into a “look-around” view that appears comparable to Google’s app.

Federighi returned to quickly list off a few more changes to the maps app. A junction view for China that lets people see how traffic will flow in an upcoming intersection, and ETA sharing via quick on-screen shortcuts.

Federighi reiterated his company’s commitment to privacy with another word jumble and then talked about new privacy controls. Location could be shared with an app just once, and then it’d have to ask for approval the next time. You’ll also get regular alerts to apps using your location in the background, and said they wouldn’t allow apps to scan WiFi and Bluetooth signals to track your location.

Federighi promised that Apple would create a new single-sign on functionality for streamlining logins to apps without third-party services or new accounts. It’ll be up to the developer to support this method of sign-on. Federighi promised that this would create a new account for the app without revealing “… any new personal information.” Signing in would use Face ID, or presumably Touch ID. Developers can optionally request your name and e-mail address. Users can optionally share a one-time email address that Apple creates on the spot to forward mail from that app. Federighi said that you could delete the new address at any time to stop receiving mail from that app.

This will inhibit situations where, for example, you want to log into the web version of an app, so it isn’t clear to me how that will work but Federighi said that it’ll work on websites. It won’t work in Firefox, Chrome, or Edge unless Apple has built something for those browsers.

Next, Federighi talked about a new feature of HomeKit, Secure Video, for home security cameras to analyze video locally (on an iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV box) instead of on remote servers. When the video is uploaded, it’ll go to iCloud but be encrypted and Federighi promised that Apple can’t even see the video.

Federighi said that storage for 10 days of video recordings would be included in existing iCloud accounts, and that this video storage wouldn’t count against iCloud storage limits.

The first companies to support this new Secure Video functionality are Netatmo, Logitech, and Eufy. At leat two of those sound like Pokemon.

Federighi promised that there would be HomeKit enabled routers which just makes it even more infuriating that they stopped developing their AirPort line of network routers. HomeKit-enabled routers would segregate the network connections of internet-of-things devices. Federighi said that Linksys, Amazon-owned Eero, and the Spectrum ISP would make these routers at first.

Moving back to Messages, Federighi immediately sherlocked Casey Liss’s Vignette by saying that you could optionally share your name and photo with people you message so they wouldn’t just get a random phone number.

Federighi introduced popular YouTube spec workers’ “Memoji” avatars to talk about new features for those avatars. There are a ton of new features, here’s the video:

After the video, Federighi spoke about Memoji stickers. These could replace regular emoji with automatically generated Memoji versions of the regular emojis. It’s interesting that these are also included in the system keyboard, and Federighi said that the customized stickers would work in mail or other apps.

Finally, Federighi said that users without FaceID, but who had at least an A9 SoC, could create, edit, and share Memoji. Although they wouldn’t be animated without the iPhone and iPad Pro sensor suite.

The Camera and Photo apps have also been updated.

New Portrait Mode features include “high key mono,” and you’ll be able to move the virtual portrait lighting lights further or closer to your subject.

Edits are promised to be easier to make, have new features, and be available for video as well. You can finally rotate a video while editing without using another app.

Browsing photos is to be easier, separating out screenhots and photos of things like receipts, and organizing photos to only show a single photo of a particularly scene instead of every duplicate.

Justin Titi demonstrated the new Photos app, and how it organizes photos into easier collections of days, months, years, or still allows users to dig into every photo.

Federighi returned to introduce Stacy Leizeig (not sure on the spelling of that name) to talk about AirPods, HomePods, CarPlay, and Siri updates for iOS 13.

AirPods can optionally announce incoming messages as soon as they come in, so you can reply immediately. Leizeig said this would work with any messaging application that uses Apple’s SiriKit API.

Audio sharing will be available in iOS 13 to share audio between multiple devices. There is a user consent dialog before this happens, and audio is controlled independently.

Leizeig said that people could use the HandOff API to share music or a podcast to a HomePod by holding their device close to the HomePod. Recovering the listening session happens by the same gesture.

Siri is promised to have live radio access with over a hundred-thousand live stations.

The HomePod will finally recognize multiple speakers and personalize answers and data for Messages, Music, Reminders, Notes, and so on.

CarPlay updates include a new dashboard view with more information. Siri is promised to stay “out of the way” and not obscure the entire display. We need that functionality on regular iOS.

Siri Shortcuts is built into iOS 13 and “more powerful than ever.” The Shortcuts app will make more suggestions about multi-step shortcuts that might be useful to you.

The Siri voice in iOS 13 is promised to be entirely software generated for the first time, as opposed to generated using clips of different speech sounds to create each word. I hope this fixes Siri’s pronounciation of Hawaiian names, because it’s pretty awful. Leizeig compared iOS 12’s Siri to iOS 13’s Siri pronouncing a complex sentence scientifically describing absolute zero. The iOS 13 Siri sounded much more natural and human.

iPadOS

Federighi returned to close out the iOS 13 discussion and talk about the split to iPadOS. He introduced a video that has not been excerpted onto Apple’s YouTube channel yet, it showed new functionality that would be exclusive to the iPad.

Federighi demonstrated the newly defined iPadOS. He showed that an iPad Pro (2018) running iPad OS with more icons on the home screen, and by swiping over from the left, the widgets previously on their own home screen are now visible on the regular screen.

Multitasking is improved by giving slide-over windows their own grab handle at the bottom of the slide-over window that lets you quickly choose a recent window.

Split-view was demonstrated in Notes by grabbing a note from the list and splitting it off into a different split-view window. Finally. The iPad has been available for almost 10 years and multitasking needs these improvements.

Federighi demonstrated dragging and dropping individual notes next to other “spaces” with other apps open in other windows. App Expose would allow you to see any fullscreen space with a Note open, in Federighi’s example.

Federighi also demonstrated two Microsoft Word documents side-by-side in SplitView.

Federighi then demonstrated splitting e-mail composition into a new window while continuing to browse through other emails before dragging and dropping an image from another e-mail he had received to the e-mail he was composing. He also showed previewing a link in another e-mail, and then dragging that link and dropping the link into the e-mail he was composing.

An e-mail in the background joked about screensavers for iPad OS, including Flying Toasters. I’ll be holding out for the Dancing Disco Pig.

Federighi also talked about improvements to the Files app. New views like icon and list views. A Column view with previews, and quick actions.

iCloud Drive will finally get folder sharing.

The Files app in iPadOS is to get Samba sharing, it sounded like it was just to access network shares and not share from iOS.

Finally, the Files app will get external storage support for thumb-drives, SD cards, and other connected drives. Holy shit this took forever.

Finally, you can import directly from a camera into an app (Lightroom was the example) instead of going through iCloud Photos.

Safari is also getting updated on the iPad with “Desktop-class browsing” so that iPad users won’t get served the mobile version of websites.

Federighi specifically said that browser apps like Google Docs, Squarespace, and WordPress would work better now.

As rumored, Safari is getting a download manager. There will also be 30 new keyboard shortcuts for Safari.

Also rumored, fonts are easier to manage in iOS 13. They’ll be downloadable from the App Store. Fonts have been an important focus of Apple’s software for as long a very long time, this is a big Finally for iOS. It will be interesting to see how fonts are managed, and if they will be freely loadable without going through the App Store.

iPadOS multitouch is supposed to be easier. Federighi showed a giant hand grabbing the page scroll indicator directly on a long document, grabbing the cursor while editing a note and moving it easier while also adjusting that movement into a selection. A new gesture enables copy and paste on the iPad. Once text is selected it is possible to copy by pinching with three fingers and then pasting by moving the cursor and spreading three fingers out.

A three-finger swipe left is the new iPad undo gesture. Federighi joked about how people won’t have to shake-to-undo the iPad anymore.

The Apple Pencil latency is supposed to be reduced from 20 miliseconds to 9 miliseconds. The Pencil drawing tools are improved and available to third-party developers via a new API called PencilKit.

iPadOS 13 will allow you to mark-up “…anything on any app” by dragging up with the pencil from the corner of the screen to get a screenshot of the screen and mark it up. This is said to also work with an entire document, instead of just the currently visible screen area.

Toby Patterson was introduced to show off iPadOS’ new editing functionality, including bringing up a small iPhone-sized keyboard for typing with one hand. He accessed that new small keyboard by pinching the large keyboard with two fingers. Patterson was visibly flustered when trying to demonstrate some of the text selection gestures, which weren’t cooperating with him.

Patterson said you could still shake to undo, but he also showed off the new three-finger swipe. He said these gestures would work in any application that supports cut, copy, and paste with undo and redo, not just text-based document applications.

Moving onto the Pencil’s new tool pallete. Patterson showed it being dragged and dropped around the screen, so it could get out of the way of his work. It can be pinned to the edge, or minimized out of the way.

Patterson also showed the markup mode, and how it works with screenshots and can be toggled in apps that support it to the document mark-up mode.

Mac Pro 2019

Cook was brought back out to move things to the Mac Pro. John Siracusa’s dreams have come true. After a decade he can finally get a new 2019 Advanced-Cheese Grater Mac Pro.

John Ternus was introduced to talk about the long overdue replacement for the Trashcan Mac Pro. The Intel Xeon-based computer supports up to 28 cores.

The RAM is 2933Mhz ECC RAM, 6 memory channels, there are 12 DIMM slots. You could havce up to 1.5 terabytes of RAM.

Ternus said the new Mac Pro has 8 internal PCI-express slots. Four double-wide, three single-wide, and one additional half-wide slot that has IO ports. That card has two Thunderbolt 3 ports, two USB-A ports, and a regular 3.5 mm audio minijack. There are two more Thunderbolt 3 ports on the top of the computer.

There are two gigabit ethernet ports near the power connector at the bottom of the back of the 2019 Mac Pro.

Ternus said there is a new Mac Pro Expansion (MPX) module specifically for containing video cards that has it’s own 500 watts of power, a regular x16 PCI express edge connector, and then an additional PCI express/ DisplayPort/Power thing on the end. The starting graphics card would be a Radeon Pro 580X. I’m a little confused by that part, because it sounds like the 2017 Radeon Pro 580. Another option for graphics is the Radeon Pro Vega II, or two of those Vega II GPUs. I really wish the Nvidia and Apple feud would end so some other competing options could be availalbe.

Ternus called the dual Vega II configuration “The world’s most powerful graphics card.” before he introduced another marketing term, the Infinity Fabric Link, which supposedly lets data move between the GPUs five times faster than the PCI express bus.

Ternus said you could also configure the new Mac Pro with two dual Vega IIs modules.

Ternus talked about an add-on card for editing ProRes and ProRes RAW video. This card has a custom ASIC that allows the Mac Pro to process huge video data streams. Ternus said the Mac Pro could play 3 8K ProRes RAW streams.

The new Mac Pro has a 1.4 kiloWatt power supply. Ternus said that “under typical load conditions” the new three-fans-and-one-blower thermal cooling setup in the new Mac Pro is as quiet as an iMac Pro.

There are optional wheels for the Mac Pro.

Ternus boasted about the third-parties that are working with Apple for the new Mac Pro and specifically boasted about performance beating an Nvidia+Windows configuration.

David Earl was introduced to talk about Logic and Final Cut, and showed adding hundreds of instruments to a soundtrack for a documentary. He added about a thousand tracks and then worked with 8K video.

The starting price for this Mac Pro $6000. The availability was given as “this Fall.”

There will also be a special version of the 2019 Mac Pro for rack-mount configurations.

Apple Pro Display XDR

Colleen Novielli was brought out to talk about the new display for the new Mac Pro. She compared it to a pro display that costs $43,000. The APDXDR is 32 inches and has a resolution of 6016 x 3384. Novielli called it a 6K Retina Display. The new display was said to support P3 wide color gamut, 10-bit color, and has Reference modes built-in. Novielli said the display has contrast that is 25x better than a typical LCD.

Novielli also said there was a superior matte option available for the display that doesn’t degrade image quality compared to older technologies.

This display is supposed to maintain higher brightness levels, 1000 nits in perpituity, 1600 nits at the peak. Novielli said the display would have a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Novielli said the 15 inch MacBook Pro can have two of these displays connected, while the new Mac Pro can have six of these displays connected.

The arm for the display is custom, and supposedly makes the monitor feel weightless while it is being adjusted. There is also an optional VESA mounting adapter.

The Apple Pro Display XDR costs $5000. There is also a “Nano-Textured” version of the display that costs $6000. The VESA adapter is $200. The “Pro-stand” is a laughable $1000. If you don’t have either I guess you’ve gotta get some plywood and screws out or keep it on your lap?

macOS 10.15 Catalina’s iTunes Breakdown

Cook returned to summon Craig Federighi to talk about the new version of macOS.

Federighi walked us through some of the features of iTunes added over the past 18 years, paused to joke about adding Mail and Safari and a Dock to iTunes, before introducing a split of iTunes into three apps. Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. It wasn’t immediately clear if the new app would still support local libraries of music and features like iTunes Match.

Federighi talked about how the Apple Music experience would be better in the new app before introducing the idea that sync for iOS devices would be moved to the Finder app.

Apple Podcasts gets its own app, as well. Federighi said that the new Podcasts app has machine learning’d it up to scan the spoken word content of the podcasts so you can search for the actual content instead of just the name or episode title.

The Apple TV app is split off into its own app. Federighi boasted that the new app would support 4K HDR playback supporting HDR-10, Dolby Atmos, and Dolby Vision standards.

The rumored iPad-as-external-display feature is real, and it is called Sidecar. Goodbye to the podcast ads? This functionality supports the Apple Pencil, and works wired or wirelessly.

Accessibility

Federighi introduced an accessibility ad for new voice features to control Macs and iOS, as well as rich text composition:

Find My

As rumored, Find My iPhone and Find My Friends have been combined for both iOS and macOS into one app just called Find My. Apparently devices will now emit Bluetooth signals so you can track them down even when they are offline, via a mesh network of Apple devices. Federighi promises that this is encrypted and anonymous.

Activation Lock

Macs with the T2 security chip (an ARM SoC from Apple) get the ability to be locked down via activation lock.

macOS 10.15 Catalina, Again

Federighi talked about how the new updates to Photos would make it to this version of macOS, along with an updated start page in Safari, and the new gallery view in Notes. Reminders is also coming to macOS along with Screen Time.

Project Catalyst (Marzipan?)

Federighi’s got a marketing name for the stuff that brought shit iPad versions of News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home to macOS Mojave. Federighi says that this new cross-platform support is much improved, the slides are not very convincing.

In terms of third-party support, Federighi boasted about the racing game Asphalt, Twitter’s iPad client which is not somebody I want to hear about when they hate third-party developers to a degree that is profoundly disturbing for the long-term success of that platform. Finally, Federighi introduced somebody from Atlassian to talk about Jira for the Mac. Zzz. it’ll be in the Mac App Store this Fall.

Catalyst is available to developers in Xcode preview today. No multiple window support was demonstrated. I am not hopeful that this feature is at all improved over the awful News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home apps on macOS today.

AR

Federighi talked about the new AR API RealityKit, for developers that don’t have experience with existing game engines. Reality Composer is a new app as part of Xcode, or for iOS and iPad. It has a bunch of pre-existing models to stuff into your app. Very strange. ARKit 3 was demonstrated with a new people occlusion feature to allow for people to be better placed in-between AR models. Motion capture was also demonstrated.

Minecraft Earth AR Demo

It wouldn’t be a modern Apple event without an awkward demo featuring VR or AR. VR is a little out of fashion, so it’s an AR demo from Lydia Winters and Saxs Persson of Mojang. I’m not sure how many people will want to hold an iPhone or iPad for hours to view an AR version of Minecraft called Minecraft Earth. All things considered this demo could have been much worse.

SwiftUI

Federighi returned to talk about a new framework for the Swift programming language, SwiftUI. Federighi gave an example of a huge list that would be a huge piece of code but minimized when it was converted to the SwiftUI framework.

Federighi said that new features would be brought to apps with SwiftUI automatically, like Dark Mode. He also said that there’s a new interactive, upgraded preview type of thing in Xcode for SwiftUI. Federighi compared it to Swift Playgrounds but said it was much more powerful.

Josh Schafer was brought out to demo SwiftUI’s new editor in Xcode. He made a joke app to make up phony versions of MacOS, and immediately showed his changes both in the Xcode Preview as well as on a live iPhone.

Federighi returned to say that the SwiftUI framework was also available for watchOS, and all Apple platforms.

Cook’s Close-out Deals

Cook returned to tell us that developers betas were available for all of the new operating systems and software today, with public betas in July. The usual promised release window for the new operating systems was “The Fall.”

Overall

The world’s most performant Mac Pro is great if you’re working on movies or high-end audio production Apple still can’t ship a reliable laptop keyboard or a tower for normal people who aren’t at Pixar. It’s also not clear at all what storage upgrades for the Mac Pro will look like, I’m not sure if the word “T2” was mentioned during the keynote, but the product page for the new Mac Pro mentions the dedicated ARM SoC Apple calls T2 so it seems like you might be limited to add-on PCI-express modules or hooking up external peripheral storage. This is especially galling on the base-model Mac Pro that only includes 256GB of storage.

The display that costs extra if you want to put it somewhere besides flat on your floor is just the ridiculous cherry-on-top of unapproachable high-end hardware.

The OS update for the Mac was couched in the end of iTunes, which will hopefully still be available if some functionality is missing from the new Music, Podcast, and TV apps. Windows users, are of course still suck with the worst version of iTunes.

iCloud is still capped to an increasingly paltry 5GBs of free storage. I am very tired of reading help posts from iPhone users online who have lost their entire photo and video library when their phone breaks and they couldn’t afford enough iCloud storage. Somehow Apple has deemed the subset of their user base that has home video security cameras more important than the millions of iPhone users who would refuse to pay for secure backups.

One way that Apple could work around this is with their own home network router that had a disk inside for backups of all your devices, but the AirPort line of routers is dead and I am sad about that.

I’m not sure how much I buy the split of iOS and iPadOS, it didn’t seem like this event was organized to emphasize that split, but I am glad that they’re working on the iPad to make it a better competitor to a traditional laptop computer. Still, there are so many limitations of an iPad compared to a modern Mac. For example, there is still no generally available multi-user mode for the iPad. The HomePod is getting that feature first, I’m glad the HomePod is going to be more useful, but it’s ridiculous and looks more like a cash grab that everyone in a house needs their own iPad if they want it to be tailored to their uses.

I am a little concerned that the only way improvements can come to these platforms is bundled in a cute marketing name. The iPad needs more improvements yet to be more competitive as a laptop replacement, maybe we don’t need our home screen to be just a list of apps and a select few widgets. Maybe a home screen could include files and be arranged however someone wants it, just like a real computer. Apple is so slowly trickling out features to the iPad, I’m looking forward to more. Perhaps they’ll come faster with the rebranding to iPadOS.

The most important Pro app for iPads to be a full computer and ship their own apps is Xcode, and we still don’t have it. Until an iPad can ship iPad software without any other device, I’m not sure Apple is really onboard with the iPad as a real computer.

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 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.

It’s an SE, As You May Have Heard

These were the hidden images of the Macintosh SE dev team hidden on the ROM

Here’s what happened in the final 1 infinite loop Apple Town Hall today, before everything moves to the new UFO campus next year:

Ufocampus

Apple opened with a short video about the 40th birthday of the company coming up on the 1st. Tim Cook Briefly spoke about the FBI’s misguided attempt at defeating personal security for everyone who uses an iPhone everywhere. Then moved on to former US EPA chief, now Apple enviro director, Lisa Jackson.

After discussing efforts to power stores and server farms with solar and wind farms, Jackson moved on to Apple’s upcycled recycling initiatives. Electronics recycling is great when people are actually motivated to do it. The new program is called Apple Renew and they’ll even help you ship your old devices in for free. Here’s where you can find it online. I love these exploded views:

Recycling

The FBI’s recycling initiative always seems to take a little bit longer while they lock themselves out of your phone for some reason that even they don’t quite seem to understand.

Jeff Williams spoke about Apple’s health initiatives which are fortunately missing  exploded views. Last year they released ResearchKit for people to participate in research studies. This year’s CareKit is a new tool for sharing information about your personal health issues with your doctor and your family through apps created with CareKit.

Nylon watch bands

Tim Cook came back to drop The Apple Watch starting price to $300 from $350. Some stores have been dancing around that price on sale for the past few months on and off. The Watch also got new a few new bands, the nylon ones look pretty cool but they’re almost not NATO-y enough. It also receives WatchOS 2.2 today, which is mainly about internationalization improvements and an update to Apple’s Maps on the device for finding nearby things like restaurants. Here’s what it looks like:

Nearby

Moving on to tvOS 9.2 software update available for the 4th generation Apple TV today. Split-screen NCAA march madness basketball so you can finally watch four teams at once get the least amount of education their basketball institutions can provide under bullshit NCAA rules. You can now enter usernames and passwords for logging into services with Siri dictation and (finally) bluetooth keyboards which had been supported in previous Apple TV generations. I like mine, just wish it were easier to side-load emulators without having to hook it up to Xcode on my laptop. 

Iphonese

Greg Jozwiak introduced the iPhone SE. Apple made four inches great again as was widely rumored with this exact name. I believe this is the first SE Apple product since the Macintosh SE when SE stood for System Expansion. This time the iPhone SE is not getting 3D touch and there is no announced initialism or other meaning behind the name. 3D Touch is the biggest feature of the 6s and 6s Plus missing in the iPhone SE. It still retains more of the squared-circle shape of the 4 and 5 series iPhones it is replacing, and that is honestly a design I preferred in my hand. It’ll be $400 for 16GB. Which is a capacity that very much still needs to go away. $500 for 64GB. Pre-orders are up on the 24th, it ships on the 31st.

After announcing the new 4 inch phone, Jozwiak moved on to reiterating new features of iOS 9.3 which is also out today but were announced in January. Night Shift is f.lux for iOS and is the most important new feature in there. I’ve been waiting for that so I don’t do as much damage to my eyes at night. Great update, wish they had credited or bought out the f.lux people who really popularized the notion.

The truetone display of the new 10 inch iPad Pro

Phil Schiller came up to introduce the new 10 inch iPad Pro that replaces the iPad Air for anyone interested in that size of device. Huge screen improvements compared to the Air, and it even has sensors to adjust the display so that the color balance and brightness of the display’s white balance adjusts based on the lighting of the environment you’re currently in. It’ll also have the speakers, pencil and keyboard add-ons, and other improvements that already work with the iPad Pro. Though the 13 inch Pro lacks some of the updates seen in the new 10 inch Pro, the 13 inch version still sounds preferable to me. The camera gets a big upgrade to iPhone quality , recognizing that many people are goofily taking pictures with huge tablets so why not.

Schiller calls the new 10 inch iPad Pro a PC replacement, I’m still waiting for Xcode for iPad to cede that. $600 for 32GB, $749 for 128GB, $899 for the new 256GB tier on Wifi. Pre-orders go up on the 24th and it ships on the 31st. The 13 inch iPad gets the new 256GB model at the new high end wifi-only price of $1,100.

“Would you buy the new Apple devices?”

This is the other question I get asked after new products are announced at an Apple event. Here’s the answer.

iPhone 6s/6s Plus tl;dr Yes.
The new upgrades are actually more significant than usual for an “s” release. 3D Touch, twice the RAM, Live Photos, and more.   

3D Touch is extremely compelling to anyone who wants fast access to functions of their iPhone directly from the home screen or in apps. It’s a convenient set of shortcuts not too dissimilar to hotkey shortcuts on desktops.

Right now it is difficult to say without going hands-on if 3D touch is implemented well, it’s possible (but unlikely) that we’ll constantly be accidentally triggering these new gestures if the implementation is poor. However, everything I’ve heard so far indicates that the “peek” and “pop” gestures, light and harder presses that are different from the taps we do today, and their associated haptic feedback that inform your fingers when they have succeeded in their task, are all working great.

I hope we eventually get improvements to the software keyboard that include haptics through this 3D Touch feature, even the low-quality vibration some Android devices do on tapping a keyboard key is a useful form of haptic feedback and has been missing from the iPhone. One keyboard improvement we did get the ability to switch it into a touchpad mode to move the text cursor a bit easier than before.

There are improvements to the GPU and CPU. The graph is very impressive. But these upgrades have been a non-issue since the 5s. Games and apps are of course going to run great and load slightly quicker. It is crazy that we are at the point where performance improvements are mundane in mobile devices, but here we are and performance has been fine for years.

Even though there is a slightly smaller battery in the 6s, and both of the new iPhones are very slightly thicker than their predecessors due to (rumored) enhanced sturdiness in the case design, battery life will be consistent with the previous generation due to improvements in power consumption in iOS and the system on a chip.

RAM gets a big bump from 1GB to 2GB. Apple doesn’t like to talk about RAM, it is another boring spec that is almost irrelevant to most people buying these devices. 2GB is a huge increase.

Currently when you switch between apps on iOS it is fairly likely that you will come back to one to find that your place in a web browser is lost or an app just has to relaunch itself because it was killed by a timer or because of low memory conditions. More RAM means that will happen less often and although 2GB seems paltry compared to what is in our desktops and laptops it is quite a lot for today’s mobile devices.

The M7 and M8 coproessors on previous iPhones gave these devices the ability to track the number of steps taken in a day and other sensor data with minimal impact on the device while it is otherwise occupied or asleep. An upgrade to the M9 coprocessor enables it to have an (optional) always-on “Hey Siri” functionality for accepting voice commands. Previously this was only available while the iPhone was plugged-in to charge. With iOS 9 the new iPhones will also be able to train on your specific voice for the “Hey Siri” command.

Photography is one of the most important functions of a smartphone today with the rise of Instagram and the truism that the best camera is the one you have with you, your phone needs to have a good quality camera sensor behind lenses. It seems like most people don’t consider the quality Smartphone camera quality and functionality is constantly undervalued . People seem to value cheapness over quality or do not even consider the camera as a feature to be evaluated when picking out a phone.

The megapickle improvements to the camera are surprising and good if it was truly done without sacrificing picture quality. I know that seems like an impossibility. How could the specification of the jump from 8-12 megapickles lower image quality? Easy. Look at any cheap point and shoot camera. They’ve been increasing the megapickles without increasing the physical size of the actual tiny little sensor in the camera and the photos that come out of them are awful. The smaller the sensor the less surface area there is to catch light. The less light the lower the image quality. The higher megapickles must be accompanied by a larger sensor. This is why the iPhone camera has been 8 megapickles for so long. It is really very difficult to stuff a good camera sensor into a compact form factor like a smartphone without either compromising on the quality of the sensor or on the design of the device by stuffing a giant bulging lump of lens and sensor on the back of the device and even then it still won’t guarantee pictures of a higher quality. Apple barely gets away with the tiny extra bulge on the back of the 6 and 6s and that did not go away with this revision.

The front-facing camera also gets a huge bump from 1.1 megapickles to 5 megapickles. Selfies are going to look much better with that and the live photo feature that (optionally) records a few seconds of video and audio around every photo looks compelling but is difficult to judge without seeing how people use it in person. With TimeDoctor Junior on the way I’m very interested in this feature as an intermediary step between regular photos and going through the trouble of recording and editing a full video. However, there are also privacy implications that people may not understand at first with Live Photos. What happens when you take out the camera, pan away from something embarrassing or private that you don’t want recorded and take a photo? You might accidentally share more than you thought.

I still want to see test photos from the new iPhones taken by people who don’t have perfect lighting conditions (all Apple photos demonstrated at the event on Wednesday were, of course, hand picked photos taken in optimal conditions.) But it is still true that no other smartphone manufacturer is as focused on camera quality as Apple, and that also shows in the other spec bump to 4K video. Good luck recording any of that on a 16GB device. Even with improvements to the OS which in iOS 9 requires less storage at upgrade time, app thinning to make download sizes smaller, and TK app content segregation that 16GB capacity option still needs to go away. It is insulting to Apple’s customers and an embarrassment to Apple that has stuck around like a nail sticking out of playground equipment waiting for anyone who doesn’t know better to come along and step on it.

There is no new 4 inch device this year, the 5c is gone from the lineup, the 6 and 6s are 4.7 inches, and the 6s Plus is still a whopping 5.5 inches. Optical image stabilization remains an exclusive to the 6s Plus and 6 Plus. People want bigger devices, I wrote the majority of this article on a 6+, and it will be interesting to see how long the 5s sticks around in the smaller and free-on-contract slot but I know that some people will miss small phones.

Touch ID is supposed to be improved and faster on the new iPhones, it’s a great feature for security that I miss when I go back to the iPad Mini 2 and I don’t know how it can get any better than it already is.

The wireless radios are improved in the 6s and 6s Plus, supposedly this means that we’ll get better signal indoors using LTE Advanced, a new upgrade to our regular LTE service. My understanding is that T-Mobile will be the only carrier to support this standard at the launch of the new iPhones.

Overall, these are great upgrades and I would gladly recommend either of them to anyone who is still on a 5s or older device. Although the upgrades are very significant for an s-year upgrade I’ve got the 6 and will be staying put until at least the iPhone 7 unless this site starts getting Daring Fireball levels of traffic and success overnight. Anyone who is still using subsidy phone discounts is getting screwed by their carrier and should very much consider paying for the device outright if possible or going to one of the new installment plans offered via Apple (which include Applecare+) or their carrier (which don’t, but are cheaper.) Just don’t buy the 16GB model, there is no excusing why it stuck around again this year.

The new iPads tl;dr Maybe
The iPad Air 2 did not get a sequel. Apple might phase out the Air’s 10 inch form factor in favor of the iPad Mini for regular users, which did receive an update to get the iPad Air 2 guts. The iPad Pro is extremely compelling for people who want to make things, but might be lacking pro-level apps at launch.

This will eventually leave just the mini’s small form factor for reading, watching TV, games and taking notes. The iPad Pro will be the device for anyone who wants to attach a keyboard for writing, or drawing and other kinds of document markup with the new stylus, or reading large format files like comics newspaper, magazines, and reference books that benefit from the enormous screen. More custom pro-level apps will become available for this iPad, but as a first-generation device there isn’t much available for it yet.

In the past I have toyed with the iPad as a device for editing and managing photos but it hasn’t handled RAW files well and the limited capacity for photo storage has also been an issue. iCloud photo sharing is fine for JPEGs but I’m doing all of my real work in Lightroom still. Professional photographers won’t be doing much with this besides maybe showing off their portfolio of finished JPEGs.

There was an accidental leak from Adobe on their website that indicated this new iPad Pro is getting an upgrade to 4 GB of RAM, this is a huge increase. That RAM is essential in order for the iPad Pro to be the multitasking powerhouse with big creative apps.

It’s interesting that 3D Touch did not come to the iPad Pro. I don’t know why this pro device was held back from the 3D Touch features when they would be so useful for iPad Pro. Similarly, the stylus could be just as useful on the Mini or Air. I would expect that functionality to eventually trickle-down to those devices like when Touch ID came up to the iPad from the iPhone.

The new Apple Pencil stylus and Smart Keyboard keyboard cover look great for writers and artists but I don’t think that it makes sense to buy the first generation of this iPad Pro if you’re not a writer who hates laptops or an artist who is using the iPad and Apple Pencil as a secondary device with something like Astropad to turn the iPad into a Mac version of the Cintiq. There just aren’t that many compelling use-cases for regular people with this device yet. I’m glad Apple is making it, I believe that iOS will be the future of computing as it continues to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop with devices like this, but this device really isn’t for many people yet. I would personally get the iPad Pro if I had the opportunity, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else today. Even developers are left out as you can’t code on the iPad Pro in Xcode. However, The iPad Mini 4 is a great choice for anyone who wants to upgrade from a previous generation or get their first iPad.

The New Apple TV tl;dr Yes
Apps are the future of streaming television, and although I’ve been happy with the current line-up of Apple TV channels they aren’t really apps and there is no app store for them to be distributed. It’s been years since we saw a real update to the Apple TV and tvOS with an app store, universal search, and a new remote is just is just what the doctor called for.

Even if Apple didn’t work with anyone else to add support for it, the new search that lets you check if a program is available through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, and other services with one search instead of several is already great today.

About the only thing that doesn’t make sense with the new Apple TVs are why we need different capacities for a device that streams video from the internet instead of downloading and supposedly won’t let apps store more than 200MB of data at a time.

Although it will require developers to work on a new control scheme to support the Siri Remote’s swipe-able case, many already do that for other platforms and third-party controllers. Being able to talk to your TV is going to be cool if it works well, and even if it doesn’t we’ll still have a better device with more control over it through this remote compared to the traditional four-way directional pad and select button device that spends most of its time lost between my couch cushions.

Games will be fun on the New Apple TV, developers will work around the storage limitations, and I believe this will be a fantastic device after all is said and done. I wouldn’t hesitate it to recommend to anyone who is thinking about getting rid of cable television or is already getting their television a-la-carte through services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. I just wish I could run older emulators on it without having to jailbreak it.

Apple Watch tl;dr No

The only change to the Apple Watch at this event were new colors and bands. Wait for next year.