Apple September 2017 event recap

Attendees stream into the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple's new campus in Cupertino, Calif.

photo by Apple

Attendees stream into the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple's new campus in Cupertino, Calif.

by Andrew Okwuosah, Digital Editor

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Apple held its first event at the company’s new Apple Park headquarters earlier this week, and the company reflected on its past while looking towards its future. Some of that was caused by the venue: the Steve Jobs theater, Obvious parallels were drawn to the company’s late co-founder who’s dying wish was to open the Park campus, a sprawling spaceship-like structure surrounded by massive stretches of greenery, in Cupertino, Calif. Here’s what you need to know.

Apple Watch Series 3 comes with LTE connectivity

photo by Apple
The Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch is getting refreshed with built-in cellular support. LTE connectivity will be provided by a built-in chip that will be able to stay connected even when it’s not connected to an iPhone.

Basically, you’ll be able to send and receive calls along with messages while away from your iPhone using just the Apple Watch. The Watch will use a separate connection while away from the phone, but it will use the same phone number so that everything gets to you.

Cellular connectivity will also let you track stats while you’re on a run, and provide access to all of Apple Music without a connected device starting next month.

Visually, the Apple Watch Series 3 looks identical to its predecessor, with backward compatibility for existing straps and bands. There’s a new Blush Gold color to match the new iPhone color (more on that later on), and a ceramic Dark Gray for the higher-end models that join the existing white ceramic finish. The cellular version also sports a red crown for an extra flair.

Under the hood, there’s a new dual-core processor with 70 percent better performance, along with Apple’s new W2 chip for improved Bluetooth, wireless connectivity, and power efficiency. The cellular antenna is housed within the display itself, and there’s an electronic SIM card inside for connectivity.

GPS is still here, along with waterproofing and all-day battery life.

The heart rate app in watchOS 4 is also getting improved with a heart rate complication for the main watch face and new measurements, including resting heart rate and a recovering heart rate that shows how fast your rate drops after you complete a workout.

It will also notify you when it detects that you have an elevated heart rate but you aren’t actually being active. What’s more, they’ll alert you when you have an arrhythmia, an irregular heart rate compared to your usual stats. This could help you spot health problems like strokes earlier before they become more serious.

Apple is also launching the Sport Loop, a band that’s designed for use in outdoor active situations. There are also new Hermes bands and watch face styles, along with new color options across the band lineup.

In the US, all four major carriers will support the new watch. AT&T and Verizon will charge $10 per month for LTE service, with Verizon giving three free months of service. Sprint and T-Mobile haven’t announced pricing.

Pricing starts at $399 for the Cellular model, with a version without Cellular starting at $329. Pre-orders begin on Friday, with the Watch Series 3 launching on September 22.

Apple TV 4K

photo by Apple
The Watch Now page on the Apple TV 4K

The Apple TV is finally getting 4K support with the Apple TV 4K, putting the company on equal footing with Roku, Amazon, and Google.

Apple is also supporting Dolby Vision and HDR 10 here, which allow for brighter highlights and an expanded range of colors on HDR-supporting televisions. It now features a more powerful A10X Fusion processor (the same one that’s in the iPad Pro) and 3GB of RAM that gives CPU performance that’s twice as the previous model.

The Apple TV’s user interface has been redesigned and optimized for 4K – including the screensavers that play on idle. There’s also a revamped Siri Remote to go along with it.

Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue said that major Hollywood studios (20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros, Sony Pictures) that bring their 4K movies to the iTunes Store will have their films upgraded for customers that have already purchased eligible films in HD at no extra cost.

Netflix & Amazon will be among the providers that will stream content in 4K, as they do on other platforms. The Apple TV’s TV app is also getting updated with a bigger focus on live sports and news.

The Apple TV 4K will launch on Sept. 22 for $179 with 32GB of internal storage or $199 with 64GB. Preorders start on Friday.

iPhone 8/8 Plus

photo by Apple
The iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus in gold.

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus look a lot like their predecessors with a glass back. The iPhone 8 has a single camera while the 8 Plus carries the dual camera system we saw last year. Like last year, both phones are sealed to be water and dust resistant.

That glass back enables wireless charging for the first time on iPhone. Both phones can use any charger as part of the Qi ecosystem, but chargers from Belkin and mophie will be sold through Apple. Apple will also be launching the AirPower wireless charger next year for charging an iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X (more on that in a bit); an Apple Watch Series 3; and a pair of AirPods inside a new wireless charging case.

The new 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch Retina HD displays add Apple’s True Tone technology to adjust the display’s white balance to match the surrounding light for a more “paper-like viewing experience.” Redesigned stereo speakers are also up to 25 percent louder with deeper bass.

Both phones feature the new A11 Bionic processor, which features a six-core CPU design with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster than the A10 Fusion along with four efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion. A second-generation performance controller can use all six cores simultaneously, delivering up to 70 percent faster performance for multithreaded workloads like gaming, machine learning, and augmented reality (AR). There’s also an Apple-designed GPU with a three-core design that delivers up to 30 percent faster graphics than the previous generation.

The 8 has a 12-megapixel camera with a larger and faster sensor, new color filter, and “deeper pixels,” according to Apple. A new image signal processor delivers wide color capture, faster autofocus in low light and better-LED photos, with a quad LED True Tone Flash with Slow Sync giving photos “more uniformly lit backgrounds and foregrounds.”

Meanwhile, the 8 Plus has dual 12-megapixel cameras like last year with all of the same features mentioned above plus one. Portrait Mode, which gives photos a shallow depth of field, gets a new trick called Portrait Lighting. Portrait Lighting lets you apply one of five different lighting styles to your selfies.

The cameras and the image signal processor are used to recognize a scene, create a depth map, and separate the subject from the background. Machine learning then creates facial landmarks and adds lighting over the face’s contours in real time.

Both phones can capture 4K video at up to 60 frames per second and 1080p HD video with slow-motion up to 240 frames per second.

Each camera is individually calibrated for AR, with new gyroscopes and accelerometers for motion tracking. The A11 Bionic handles world tracking, scene recognition and graphics at 60 frames per second for a smooth experience, while the image signal processor handles real-time lighting estimation.

Both phones come in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish that looks like a blend between the 7’s gold and rose gold colors. Here’s how much it’ll set you back:

  • 8: 64GB- $699 ($34.50/month), 256GB: $849 ($40.75/month)
  • 8 Plus: 64GB- $799 ($39.50/month), 256GB: $949 ($45.75/month)

iPhone X

photo by Apple
The iPhone X in silver

In a move that surprised pretty much no one, Apple unveiled the iPhone X (that’s 10, not X): a cream of the crop smartphone with a 5.8-inch edge-to-edge display.

“For more than a decade, our intention has been to create an iPhone that is all display. The iPhone X is the realization of that vision. iPhone X marks a new era for iPhone – one in which the device disappears into the experience.”

Apple chief design officer Jony Ive

That’s a Super Retina Display with OLED technology, True Tone technology that dynamically adjusts the white balance of the display to match the surrounding light, and the highest pixel density of any iPhone ever at 458 ppi. It also supports HDR with the Dolby Vision and HDR10 standards.

As expected, there’s no home button with Touch ID being replaced by facial recognition appropriately called Face ID. You can use it for unlocking your phone, enabling Apple Pay, and gaining access to supported apps.

It works by the dot projector on the front of the X projecting over 30,000 invisible IR dots on your face. The IR image and dot pattern are then used to create a mathematical model of your face with the data sent to a “secure enclave” that confirms a match while adapting to physical changes in your face over time (facial hair, pimples, glasses, a different haircut, etc.).

The new seven-megapixel TrueDepth camera on the front face of the iPhone X features auto image stabilization, exposure control, and brings Portrait mode to the front camera. On the rear, all of the same camera features from the 8 Plus apply along with increased battery life, and a glass body.

The dot projector is also used for Animoji, which uses over 50 different facial muscle movements to animate your expressions into a dozen emojis. It’s available as an iMessage app.

The iPhone X will be available in space gray and silver. Pre-orders will go live on Oct. 27 with a launch on Nov. 3. Here’s how much it’ll set you back:

  • 64GB: $999 ($49.91/month)
  • 256GB: $1149 ($56.16/month)

iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus prices slashed by $100

The iPhone 7

Meanwhile, the iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus got expected price cuts to make way for the new models.

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are $100 off now, starting at $549 and $669 respectively.

Furthermore, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus got their prices cut by another $100 (they got their prices cut another $100 last year). The iPhone 6s now starts at $449, while the 6s Plus starts at $549.

And for budget-friendly users, the iPhone SE is another $50 cheaper, starting at $349.

macOS High Sierra launching Sept. 25

photo by Apple
The default wallpaper in macOS High Sierra

The final version of macOS High Sierra will ship on Sept. 25 for free. It’ll run on just about any Mac that runs Sierra, but some changes to the OS could break compatibility for some older apps.

Major updates under the hood include Apple’s new APFS filesystem that should free up some space on your Mac, speed certain tasks up, and make backups easier; the HEVC video codec for smaller videos; and external GPU and VR support.

On the front end, core apps and utilities (Photos, Safari, Mail, Notes, Siri, Spotlight) are all getting improvements. For example, auto-playing videos can now be blocked in Safari.

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