I attended the Apple Event at the new Steve Jobs Theater today at Apple's new spaceship campus and wanted to share some of my quick takeaways from the day.
Apple Watch Series 3
Adding LTE capabilities will open Watch to a new kind of buyer and will likely spur upgrades of current users who can see the value of being fully connected without an iPhone. Some users will value the convenience of only needing Watch without an iPhone, others will see value in staying in the moment, others will see it as freedom from another device. While specifics of battery life on LTE is not available yet, Apple is committing to 18 hours of mixed use. As more information about battery life while on LTE and carrier rates becomes available, users will be more comfortable purchasing, but I think it will be their first question.
With the new W2 wireless chip, Watch increases Wi-Fi performance and will not only speed up downloads but will also save on energy consumption, potentially to give those savings to make up for LTE. The new dual core processor will make Watch faster, more responsive and result in an improved experience, more important when not using an iPhone simultaneously. Apple also announced it would start giving notifications for abnormally high heart rates and also with Stanford, created an opt in
Apple also announced it would start giving notifications for abnormally high heart rates and also with Stanford, created an opt in program to analyze heart rates for irregular beats. I believe this kind of arrhythmia detection capability is what wearables were always intended to do, and that is to detect maladies before they impact people. This is a great step in the industry.
Apple TV 4K
Apple was the last vendor to add 4K to their streamer and the company says it was waiting for the intersection of 4K, HDR10 and Dolby Vision content. This is fair, as the new Apple TV is the only streamer that will ship with this capability which supports both standards now. I believe this new Apple TV will result in the biggest Apple TV upgrade cycle the company has ever had as it removed the objection of not having 4K.
The device not only plays 4K content but will also upscale 1080P content to 4K. As a huge bonus, all “HD” content purchased on iTunes will be converted to the highest native resolution at no additional cost. Much of the newer content will be native 4K. The new A10X Fusion chip adds the same processor that is in the iPad Pro and will further extend capabilities for more advanced applications found in game consoles.
More live sports and news content represents the slow and methodical march for Apple TV to replace the set top box and increases the likelihood consumers will spend more time on Apple TV.
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
Overall, I believe Apple did
do enough to warrant a full generational upgrade. The materials, design, CPU, graphics, ISP, speakers, camera, and charging (wireless) all changed. Apple made the iPhone 8 stronger and more durable with the addition of aerospace aluminum and a more durable glass, likely from their relationship with Corning, even though the company wasn't mentioned.
Apple also brought out a new mobile SoC. Apple has led in smartphone SoC performance for the past few cycles and I believe the A11 Bionic chip will be the fastest mobile SoC available. Apple focused on different silicon improvements this generation, this time on multitasking CPU performance and GPU battery life. With A11 Bionic, Apple’s custom SoC design again pays off. The iPhone 8 does not support gigabit LTE and will likely be 25-35% slower on networks in good coverage compared to phones that do support it. The performance delta could likely be much larger in poor coverage areas. All four US carriers and 34 globally will have large deployments of gigabit LTE by the end of the year.
Apple also improved its camera subsystem. Apple added a new sensor, ISP (image signal processor) and pixel engine. Also, the iPhone 8 added optical image stabilization, a major improvement. The five new lighting features are valuable, differentiated, and will likely be lauded. Apple is claiming the “best 4K video” given color reproduction and effects and I look forward to hands-on reviews that bear this out. Apple has been very consistent with claims versus performance so I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
I'd like to comment on AR (augmented reality). Apple has the enviable position of “owning” the CPU and GPU silicon, smartphone integration, AR API (ARKit) and even many of the future AR applications. This gives them a leg up and an advantage with iPhone 8.
With its new glass from and back panels and room for Qi circuitry, Apple finally enters the wireless charging world. While I applaud Apple’s use of the Qi standard as there are many chargers that support, I wish the company had provided some specifics of how long it would take to charge the iPhone 8. I believe Apple will work closely with the Qi consortium to improve the experience over time as it’s not perfect.
The iPhone X is truly an engineering marvel, especially when compared to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8, and is not just a late copy of the competition. Apple did it their way by perfecting the experience, and on their timeframe. Its singular weakness is not using the fastest gigabit LTE modem available.The edge to edge display design is the first of its kind and while other phones were close to the full edge, the iPhone X is the first. Even at a $999 opening price point, customers will wait in very long lines to get one.
The OLED 5.8” 2436x1125 (458 PPI) Super Retina Display is beautiful and is not just a later version of OLED as it fully supports Apple’s color accuracy and True Tone specifications. With the edge to edge display, the Home button and Touch ID go away, replaced by Face ID. Face ID isn’t the first facial login, it is the first secure, mobile implementation of it. Face ID creates a depth map of the face and uses neural networks and discrete silicon to match it to the source. As It creates a facial depth map, it cannot be spoofed with a photo. I like that Apple committed to a 20X “more secure” metric versus Touch ID. In addition to Touch ID being replaced with Face ID, waking the phone is new. Users wake the phone by touching the display, lifting the phone or touching the side lock button. users can multitask by swiping up from the bottom of the display. It took me about two minutes to get comfortable with this.
Like the iPhone 8, iPhone X uses the new A11 Bionic chip and it will be a performance beast, I guarantee it. The iPhone X does not support gigabit LTE and will likely be 25-35% slower on networks in good coverage compared to phones that do support it and an even larger performance delta in poor coverage areas. All four US carriers and 34 overall will have large deployments of gigabit LTE by the end of the year.
The iPhone X uses the similar dual rear camera, dual OIS subsystem as the iPhone 8 Plus. As the front camera has a depth sensor, it will support portrait mode and portrait lighting. I'm expecting some incredible still images and videos. Using the front depth camera, Apple will be able to do some extremely detailed effects on apps like Snapchat and the new Animoji.
Even with all the features packed in, the iPhone X battery life lasts surprisingly two hours longer than the iPhone 7. It is shocking as the iPhone X has so much packed inside.
Like the iPhone 8, the iPhone X supports Qi, a wireless standard many phones currently support. But as in true Apple form, they took it a step further to help solve a very real issue and that is how to charge multiple devices at the same time. AirPower, available next year, will simultaneously charge the iPhone, Watch Series 3 and a new AirPod case. This is wireless charging done right.
All in all, I believe it was a good day for Apple. The distinction of the iPhone X was enough to make the Steve Jobs Theater the right place to launch it. I also believe the iPhone 8 improvements warranted a full model improvement versus an upgrade "S". While Apple wasn't first with OLED displays with edge to edge capabilities, wireless charging, or facial login, Apple made meaningful improvements that should make the wait worth it. Finally, while Apple has opened up a competitive opportunity with the spread between iPhone X and iPhone 8, I think Apple will sell as many iPhone X units as it can make.