Without the iPhone 12, Apple "special event" focuses on new Apple Watch, iPad, subscription bundles
Updated: Sep 16
Apple conducted its traditional September “special event” on Tuesday but there was nothing traditional about it: Covid-19 turned it into a virtual-only affair, and there were no fresh iPhone announcements.
OK, so we pretty much knew going in that the Apple faithful would have to wait at least a few more weeks for the iPhone 12s, Apple’s first devices, we expect, with 5G.
Instead Tuesday’s event focused on the Apple Watch, an iPad refresh, and Apple’s first subscription bundling of the company's ever-expanding roster of consumer services, which include a brand new fitness offering.
Apple Watch updates: Let me quickly tick off the highlights of Apple’s latest smart timepieces. There will be a new “budget” Apple Watch SE for $279 ($329 with cellular), though I use the budget descriptor loosely. Truthfully, the smartest budget choice for some buyers will be the Apple Watch Series 3 device, which at $199+ remains in the lineup.
The SE carry some advantages of course. It boasts a Retina display that’s 30% larger than the Series 3, and includes other features missing in its cheaper sibling, notably an always-on altimeter, and the ability to detect falls and summon assistance if required.
Apple brought out a new watch at the premium end too, with the $399 on up Apple Watch Series 6 series. It lets you measure your blood oxygen level. According to Apple, the blood oxygen sensor employs four clusters of green, red and infrared LEDs, and a quartet of of photodiodes on the back crystal of the watch. It can measure blood oxygen levels between 70% and 100%. (Since it is not classified as a medical grade device, Apple doesn't require FDA approval for this feature.)
You can view the results in the Health app on the iPhone. As with the Series 4 and Series 5 models, the Series 6 also has an FDA-cleared ECG app for detecting irregular heartbeats.
All the watches will take advantage of watchOS7 software, which among other new features brings sleep tracking and fresh watch faces. Apple also showcased new watch bands at the event, including stretchable liquid silicone Solo Loop types without clasps or buckles.
And the company announced a Family Setup feature targeted at kids or older family members that will enable them to talk on the phone and take advantage of fitness and other features, even if they don't have an iPhone of their own; the watches are assigned their own phone number. Parents will be able to connect with the kids via walkie-talkie, and restrict certain apps when the child is in the classroom.
Apple its also making a larger watch face available for older adults who may not see as well as they used to.
Family Setup requires an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, and a cellular plan.
*iPads: Apple introduced a new iPad Air with a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, robust A14 Bionic processor (with 11.8 billion transistors), 12MP rear-camera and Touch ID sensor that Apple managed to build into the relatively small power button on the top of the tablet, all with the same promised security.
This latest Air starts at $599, a step up compared to the other new iPad unveiled Tuesday, the $329 8th generation iPad. The cheaper iPad gets some nice updates, including improved graphics capabilities and neural engine processing. It has a 10.2-inch display.
The higher priced Air meanwhile somewhat blurs the lines for consumers weighing the the model versus one of Apple's more expensive iPad Pro tablets.
The one-pound Air comes in five colors, and, same as top-of-the-line iPad Pro models, works with the optional second-generation Apple Pencil. It also ditches Apple’s Lightning connector for USB-C, while the entry level iPad sticks with Lightning.)
*Service bundles: Arguably the most interesting announcements Apple made on Tuesday had to do with services.
For starters, Apple is briskly stepping foot into Peloton territory, with a customizable subscription-based workout experience called Fitness+. It ties into the Apple Watch and is built around studio workouts in a variety of workout areas, from cycling and rowing to strength training, yoga and dance.
Apple is also promising a regimen tailored to beginners, or for those of us who haven’t been to a gym since the pandemic hit.
Fitness+ is slated to launch before the end of 2020 and standalone will cost $9.99 a month or $79.99 a year.
Ah, but if you’re like me and many other people, you already suffer from subscription overload, with several of those subscriptions tagged to Apple's ecosystem. Thus, Tim Cook & Co. have launched three Apple One subscription bundles which, depending on which Apple services you take advantage of, potentially represents a decent deal.
An “individual” Apple One bundle costs $14.95 a month and includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage.
The “family” bundle which can be shared with up to six family members, costs $19.95 per month and includes all of the above, but it raises iCloud storage limits to 200GB.
And the “premier” plan, which can also be shared with six members of the family, fetches $29.95 per month. It adds Apple News+ (numerous magazines and some newspapers), Apple Fitness+, and ups 2TB iCloud storage to 2TB.
You get a 30-day free trial for any services you don’t already have and will receive a single invoice each month.
There's room to quibble. For example, what if you want 2TB of storage but don’t have an interest in Apple News+ or Apple Fitness+? I suppose you can still choose services a la carte, but am looking to Apple for more details on how the pricing will all shake out.
How do you feel about the Apple One bundles or Apple's latest hardware?
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