Straight to the Facts – Apple’s September Event


September in the world of the sieve formerly known as Apple has usually been reserved for their big music event with iPod updates. However, the iPhone release schedule became rather unconventional in the past few years, resulting in today instead being the announcement of the next iPhone, or rather, iPhones. Here’s my traditional bullet-point rundown with some analysis:

The typical facts-and-figures updates:

  • the 5th annual iTunes festival – 30 nights of music live streamed to over 100 countries
  • Stanford is getting a new, bigger Apple store
  • October 2013 will mark the 700,000,000th iOS device being shipped
  • iWork is apparently the best selling mobile productivity app on any platform. Quite an impressive claim.
  • Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie, and iPhoto free on all new iOS devices
  • iPhone 5 was the best-selling iPhone ever

iOS 7 (free to download from September 18th) features:

  • Siri enhancements and a male voice for Siri
  • New ringtones
  • Photos taken on vacation/holiday are put in groups
  • Available for iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad 2, The New iPad, iPad 4th generation, iPad Mini, 5th generation iPod touch.

The iPhone 5 will not be relegated to being the budget last-gen iPhone, instead, the new iPhone 5C fits that gap, available in white and rather neon green,  blue, pink, and yellow. On a table it’ll look like an iPhone 5 with a colorful bumper, and on the rear they’re rather reminiscent of the 5th generation iPod touch but constructed from seamless hard-coated polycarbonate (yes, plastic, but “feels dense”) instead. Features:

  • 4 inch Retina touch display
  • A6 chip
  • 8MP iSight camera and FaceTime HD camera with better low-light performance
  • many LTE bands supported, BlueTooth 4.0, and dual-band WiFi.
  • Available on a two year contract for $99 (16GB) and $199 (32GB). Pre-order from September 13th (yes, that’s a Friday). Available in stores on September 20th (US, UK, Aus., Can., Fr., Germany, Japan, China, and Singapore)

For a budget device, it’s got some really good specifications. I imagine the “$99 on contract for 16GB of storage” will result in a lot of sales. All the colors and case variations will be a hipster’s dream.

iPhone 5S – available in grey w/ black bars, gold w/ white bars, and silver w/ white bars. Derrick Avery will be pleased with that.

  • the new A7 chip, up to 2x faster than the iPhone 5, and 56 times faster than the 2008 iPhone. Here’s the best part – it’s 64-bit. All of Apple’s built-in apps have been re-engineered, and it’ll still run 32-bit iOS apps fine.
  • another chip – the M7. It measures motion data (accelerometer, gyroscope, compass) constantly.
  • Battery gives 10 hours for 3G talking , LTE browsing, WiFi browsing, or video playback,  40 hours of music playback, and 250 hours standby time.
  • The camera has a whole host of automatic new features to take great photos without you having to change settings. New ‘True Tone’ flash that has 1,000 unique variations for capturing color temperature. Burst mode (hold the shutter down) for up to 10 shots per second with the ‘best shot’ choice similar to on the HTC One series. Slo-Mo 720p video at 120fps (same resolution/fps as the GoPro). Seemingly no mention of the camera resolution.
  • Touch ID: Fingerprint sensor in the home button – rest your finger on it and it unlocks (no need to click). You can also use your finger for iTunes purchase authentication. For the paranoid out there, it doesn’t store your fingerprint data on iCloud
  • On a two year contract it’s $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for 64GB. $49 for a case. Available in stores September 20th (US, UK, Aus., Can., Fr., Germany, Japan, China, and Singapore)

The 8GB iPhone 4S is now free on contract.

The event closes with musical guest Elvis Costello, which I’m more than happy with.

Not really much of an event, to be honest. One musician and a brief mention of iTunes Radio, so clearly not a music event. Yes, the iPhone 5S was announced with arguably less improvement over the 5 than the 4S was over the 4 – depends on how developers take advantage of the A7. If you’re wondering why I called Apple a sieve, that’s because some technology journalists got their hands on the bodies of the 5S and 5C weeks ago, as well as the (still unconfirmed but now likely to be identical to leaks) iPad 5 and iPad mini 2. Overlooking the iPhone 4 prototype fiasco, leaks as concrete as these really didn’t happen in the past.

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WWDC 2013 – keynote summary


(skim through and look for the bold/underlined headings for the products you’re interested in knowing about)

So, it opened with a slightly pretentious feeling video, although Apple can usually get away with that. Most of the time…

Anyway, Tim’s first large point is the typical sales update. “We made a video”. No surprise there. An Apple Store in Berlin with meander patterns and Ionic columns on the outside – a classical far cry from the glass buildings seen in other cities, although the interior is the usual bare stylishness. “Only Apple could do this”. Could or would? They’re certainly the only tech company who bother to put this much effort into physical outlets.

“More accounts with credit cards than any other store on the internet that we’re aware of.” That’s not the first time he’s said “that we’re aware of” today, and I’m sure Steve Jobs never threw doubts into people’s minds like that.

Quickly into a third party demo with Anki which looked cool although ran into a difficulty. I’d love to buy something like this, controlling real miniature vehicles with an iPhone – like Death Rally but in real life. This really doesn’t feel like a traditional Apple keynote.

Tim now moves on to Mac, looking at figures for MacBooks. Craig Federighi comes on stage making jokes about running out of cat names and then a joke about the next iteration of Mac OS being called OS X Sea Lion. The name turns out to be OS X Mavericks, named after this place. It’ll be released to consumers in Autumn, but now on to the features:

  • Finder tabs – perfect, much easier than using multiple windows
  • Tagging – adding tags to documents that can appear in the finder sidebar
  • Multiple Displays – it works the way multiple displays should do, works really well. You can even turn your Apple TV into a third monitor and still use your computer as normal.
  • Lots of OS performance changes to improve battery life, faster performance under load, and quicker wake from standby. App Nap balances how system resources are shared so that your battery doesn’t pay for what you aren’t currently using.
  • Improved notifications, even enabling push notifications from iOS to come through. Shows on lockscreen. On a related note,
  • Apps update in the background.

Now Safari, they’re making it “even better”. Well, that’s better than making it worse. Anyway:

  • continuously scroll through articles saved to your Reading List
  • browse shared links seamlessly from Twitter
  • Safari wins on SunSpider and JSBench comparisons
  • iCloud Keychain not only remembers your website logins across devices, but also your WiFi passwords. Also saves your credit card information, excluding the security code.

The Calendar:

  • Aware of location, travel time, weather. Flatter visuals and bland colours – he made a joke about skeuomorphics going
  • Continuous scrolling
  • Tells you travel information right in the calendar – notifies you when you need to leave to get to your appointment on time

Maps:

  • Flyover and other iOS style features
  • You can send directions from desktop maps instantly to your iPhone

iBooks:

  • On the Mac at long last – does everything the iOS iBooks does, including the night mode.
  • Textbooks work fantastically – pity hardly any educational outfits adopted it.

Phil Schiller now takes the stage to talk about the MacBook Air, with an entire new line, shipping from today:

  • New 4th generation Intel Haswell processors – 40% faster graphics and much better battery life. For example, 11 inch going from previous 5 hours battery to up to 9. 13 inch from 7 hours to 12 hours – “all day battery life”
  • 802.11ac WiFi (yes, that’s better than Wireless N) – on a related note, there’s a new AirPort Extreme Base Station that has a HDD inside so it can also act as a Time Capsule (hence the incredibly tall form-factor)
  • More storage for the same price as the last generation.

At long last, after only a slight silent improvement last year, the Mac Pro is finally getting a big update. This time round it even comes with a new design (it’s had the same basic design of the 2003 PowerMac G5). Unfortunately,It looks like a shiny black trash can. Same 12-core maximum, but newer Xeons. 1866MHz DDR3 RAM, Thunderbolt 2, PCIe Flash storage, dual AMD FirePro GPUs as default that can output to up to three 4K (that’s a lot better than 1080p HD) displays. The ports light up, it is tiny compared to the original Mac Pro, and assembled in the USA. Awkward but impressive form. This was only a sneak peek though – released later this year.

On to iCloud services:

  • Some facts and figures
  • iWork for iCloud – looks like it works in a web browser. Nothing new in comparison to Microsoft, but it works just as well.

Time for iOS 7 – it’ll run on iPhone 4+, iPad 2nd gen, iPad mini, 5th gen iPod touch, but some features run on only the current lineup. Consumer release in Autumn.

  • Figures such as 600 million iOS devices sold and 82 percent tablet market share for the iPad. Apple also claim to have the most very satisfied users – Windows Phone comes in second place.
  • “The biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone” – much like the iPhone 5 was the biggest change to iPhone since the original iPhone. “Amazing new features” and a “stunning new user interface”.
  • It looks extremely psychedelic and INCREDIBLY different. I’m hoping that it’s not quite as extreme as it looks due to pressure for Apple to change it as much as possible.
  • Pastel colours, WebOS style multi-tasking, wallpaper moves around, new icons, slide to the side to unlock lockscreen, round lockscreen numbers, multiple pages in folders, new notification center (also accessible on lock screen), slide up to get instant access to some settings, playback controls, and flashlight etc. shortcuts…. there’s really too much for me to list. Imagine everything you see on your iOS device at the moment. Now it’s ALL different. Well, App icons are in the same grid. But everything else is new.
  • I’ll just list some adjectives as the changes – flat. pastel Google-esque colours. transparency. fluid. more of a fullscreen sense. Blackberry OS 10 style sliding in mail, slower looking transitions, ghostly keyboard.
  • Craig says it’s like getting a new phone – I agree, as what you see is a major part of a phone’s user experience. I think this is going to take a lot of getting used to for people.

Here’s a few key iOS features in a formal style of listing:

  • Apps update intelligently and automatically
  • Card style interface for Safari tabs like on Chrome mobile but more of a rolodex swirl – also, the 8 tab limit is gone.
  • All apps can multitask and run typically used apps ready to go before you tap on them
  • Control Center works from within any app (for example, you can turn the flashlight on instantly)
  • live filters in the redesigned Camera app
  • Images in Photos are organized into ‘moments’
  • Siri has more human-like voice, can control parts of the system (such as change the brightness), and fills the whole screen in a cleaner interface.
  • Deals with 16 vehicle manufacturers such as Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Chevrolet, Hyundai, Volvo, and Jaguar  to have iOS-linked displays in the car
  • App Store can show apps popular near you.
  • Music app has artist images, album grid instead of the now non-existent coverflow
  • iTunes Radio (starting in the US only) – free with ads, no ads if you have an iTunes Match account (at last, now I get more than consistent iTunes crashes for my £21.99 a year). Doesn’t seem as good as the Xbox Music Pass to be honest, but the ecosystem is wider-spread
  • Dismissing a notification on iOS dismisses it across all your devices

And that’s ‘it’ – new MacBook Air available now, OS X and iOS available in Autumn, Mac Pro available “later this year”.

UPDATE – if you want to see how iOS 7 looks like, you can visit Apple’s gallery here.