Summary of Apple’s ‘Special October Event’, 2013


(Introductory paragraph written before the event, the rest was written as it unfolded. Look through for bold text for information of different products.)

In June, Apple spawned a lot of questions, most of which weren’t answered at last month’s event, such as specifics on the upcoming Mac Pro and Mac OS Mavericks – for example, a presumed launch of Mavericks either today or very soon, as it went gold a few weeks ago. It should also be noted that despite September being Apple’s traditional month for their music event, the various iPod models didn’t see an update – we haven’t seen a new iPod since May, which was a ‘budget’ version of the iPod touch. Not to mention the iPod classic, which hasn’t really been spoken of since 2009. Apple has a reputation for releasing products on yearly cycles, which has fallen slightly out of sync in recent years, but still stands – leaving expectations of new iPods, a new Apple TV, new MacBook Pros, the new Mac Pro, a new Mac Mini, Mac OS, and potentially an entirely new product.

Tim Cook walks on stage and starts with what we’ve all come to expect – updates of the news sort rather than the software/hardware sort.

Plenty of figures and opinions about the iPhone 5s and 5c sales and reception, and a video of their retail stores. Figures such as 200 million devices updated to iOS 7 in five days, 20 million users have listened to iTunes radio, developers have earned over $13 billion.

Now onto the updates we’re all waiting for:

Craig Federighi talking about Mavericks:

  • current 13″ MacBook Air will see up to an hour more battery life for web browsing with Mavericks installed (rather what I was expecting what with App Nap and other power saving features announced in June)
  • Reminders about all the other features we’re so eagerly anticipating such as iBooks, Maps, Notifications, Finder tags & tabs, and better multiple display functionality. Ironically, better display functionality could make covering this a lot easier.
  • The Mavericks update will be free to download, even if you’re upgrading from Snow Leopard. Hardware compatible-wise, you can get Mavericks if you have a 2007+ iMac or MacBook Pro, 2008+ MacBook Air, MacBook, or Mac Pro, and 2009+ for the Mac mini.
  • And as expected, available today. “Go out and get it” I’d love to, just as soon as the update appears.

Phil Schiller on to talk about the MacBook Pro:

  • The ‘MacBook Pro’ has been abandoned, Apple now only sell the Retina variant.
  • 13″ gets up to nine hours battery life. 15″ gets up to eight hours.
  • faster flash storage, more video RAM, 802.11ac WiFi, Thunderbolt.
  • All shipping from today.

Now on to the Mac Pro:

  • 4, 6, 8, or 12 core configurations available with the Intel Xeon e5.
  • up to 64GB of 1866MHz of RAM
  • up to 12GB of video RAM (with the dual AMD FirePro configuration)
  • Four USB 3 ports, six ThunderBolt 2 ports, and an HDMI port. With ThunderBolt you can have up to three 4K displays.
  • It really is amazingly small – I doubt it’s much bigger than the latest AirPort Time Capsule. It’ll blend in nicely on the top of a desk (where it’s really intended to be) and makes the same amount of noise as the Mac mini.
  • Ships in December, starting at $2,999.

Now onto iLife with Eddy Cue:

  • New versions of iMovie, iPhoto, and Garage Band for Mavericks and iOS.
  • 64 bit and iCloud compatible
  • you can now edit and order photo books with iLife on iPad
  • iMove Theater integrates with iCloud so you can see everything you’ve made in it on all devices, including Apple TV.
  • The iOS version of GarageBand now has a 16 track limit, up from 8, and 32 tracks on 64 bit devices. And, as you’d expect, everything is synced with iCloud.
  • GarageBand now has a Drummer feature – a virtual drummer that you can easiy modify to play along in a different way. Ships with one drummer, you can add 14 more and more instruments with a single in-app purchase.
  • All available today, and ships free with new Macs and iOS devices.

iWork:

  • 64 bit with redesigned UIs – including new icons.
  • It looks like Pages on Mac now allows you to view a document like in Word rather than some borderless monstrosity…. (Update: I just installed it, and you can easily zoom in and out, allowing the page to actually look like a page now) It also has a format panel on the right hand side – another welcome timesaving addition.
  • Numbers has interactive charts so you can watch a bar chart change, showing past figures to present.
  • Keynote has some new animations and transitions that look quite nice.
  • iWork documents can be instantly shared with iCloud to anyone you give the link to – they don’t need an iCloud account to view it. You can also collaboratively edit documents Google Drive style.
  • Available today, ships free on new Macs and iOS devices.

Tim takes the stage again, for the iPad. He starts off with looking back at initial press slating of the 1st generation iPad “I can’t see a need for the thing”, then revealing that the 170 millionth iPad was sold earlier this month. There are 475,000 apps specifically designed for iPad, and Apple claim that the iPad is used up to four times more than any other tablet, and ranks number one for customer satisfaction. Some source for these figures would be nice… Tim follows up the figures with a video that basically shows iPads everywhere – restaurants, fire trucks, operating rooms, ice rinks, DJs, business meetings, and a tent hung on the side of a mountain.

Anyway, what’s new:

A name… the new iPad isn’t the “new new iPad” or “iPad 5th generation”, it’s the iPad Air, replacing the 4th generation iPad in the way that the Retina MacBook Pro replaced the MacBook Pro.

  • 9.7″ retina display, 43% thinner bezel, 7.5mm thin, 1lb. In the advert it’s portrayed to be thinner than a pencil, so watch your back Kindle.
  • 64 bit A7 chip (same as the iPhone 5s)
  • 8x faster than the original iPad, with 72x faster graphics.
  • 5MP iSight camera with 1080p video and dual microphones.
  • up to 10 hours battery life
  • Available from November 1st, in silver/white and space gray/black starting at $499

iPad mini:

  • Now has retina display (2,048×1,536 – the same as iPad 3, 4, and Air)
  • 64 bit A7 chip, proving that it’s just a smaller form factor, not a budget device.
  • 10 hours battery life
  • Available “later in November” from $399

Tim closes with an advert for the iPad Air, and says goodbye.

A couple of closing thoughts:

So, the iPad 2 is the ‘cheaper past-gen option’ Apple offer, but only $100 less than the iPad Air. Given how much more advanced the iPad Air, even how much more advanced the 4th generation iPad is, I think Apple is really missing a trick charging so much for what is now so little – I think they should either drop the price for the iPad 2 a lot more to expand their consumer base, or offer a different past generation iPad as the cheaper alternative.

No new gadget, no iPod updates, and no Mac mini update – will there be another even this year? I doubt it, as that would be far too many events for one year. Perhaps we’ll see something new in January?

Advertisements

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.