Apple held their traditional September event today, focusing in on three main areas: Watch, AirPods, and iPhone. The event was called Far Out which led a lot of people to think they were improving night photography but, it turns out, the space age part of the programme was about reaching out to satellites in an emergency. More on that in a moment, instead, let me start with the things I might actually get some use from.
Islands in the stream
Apple has a reputation for making bold changes, disrupting the tech industry, and doing whatever they want regardless of what their dedicated users think. However, they do also sometimes listen to the feedback they get, and that has to be the main reason for this event’s headline announcement: on the iPhone 14 Pro there will be no more notch. NO MORE NOTCH.
Instead, the black blob at the top of the screen becomes a useful and interactive bubble that shares with you those notifications that you just need to know about but don’t need to stick around, or lets you see what’s going on in the background of the phone. It looks very clever and a great step forward. If I’m being super honest, I feel like I’ve got so used to the notch now that it doesn’t bother me, and actually this bouncing black bubble might be more intrusive. But at least this time it will be intrusive but also useful, rather than a big black hole of despair at the top of the screen.
Also, the new phone is in purple and I am already planning the lock screen to go with it.
Hearing is believing
When Mr Cook said at the beginning of the presentation that AirPods were going to be one of the three areas getting an upgrade, I was surprised. I always wonder how much can really be improved or developed on those tiny little white buds. There’s so little real estate, there’s surely only so much can be done?
Clearly it’s a good job I don’t work at Apple because they’ve upgraded them significantly. There’s a new chip, new audio drivers and a new ear tip for smaller ears. Most excitingly there are improvements to the audio modes: better noise cancellation, up to 2x more noise cancelled apparently, and also Adaptive Transparency (key for me as I spend most of my time on this mode), where harsh background noises with high decibels are reduced so you’re just hearing the important stuff.
There’s also some Spatial Audio nonsense, but I will continue to ignore that for just as long as they keep pushing it on us.
In, out, hot, cold
On the Watch side of things, there was slightly less for me to actually get excited about but I’m still impressed by what they’re doing. The normal watches are just better, faster, stronger, etc, adding a temperature sensor as part of cycle tracking, and a terrifying crash detection that knows when you’ve been in a car accident.
The real development this time out is a whole new iteration of watch called Ultra. And it really is next level, aimed at adventurers, explorers, those that do ultramarathons and push things to limit. The watch can do extreme cold and hot, go to deeper diving depths and has a huge battery life to track you over the course of ultra-events.
It has big rugged buttons that can be used with gloves, a huge screen that will be an absolute dead weight on female arms, plus better audio, microphone and speakers to help if you need to get in touch with someone in a blizzard. Er, Apple, I barely leave the house these days?
This all ties in with their Far Out satellite emergency beacon. It’s a great idea and has obviously taken a great deal of thought and developing new technologies and user experiences to point a phone at a satellite rather than a cell tower. But I can’t think of the last time I was up a mountain with a broken leg and needed to use a satellite, and I don’t have plans in that area any time soon.
So none of this stuff is for me. I can’t imagine how big the userbase will actually be, but you have to start somewhere when you’re pushing the envelope and this is a fascinating way to do it. Pushing the envelope, reducing the noise, and getting rid of the notch. Not a bad event at all.