The wait did not end with the conclusion of IFA Berlin. It was time for Apple to get back in the game. Android had been busy refining its products for much of the year but the ecosystem hadn’t moved much. Tim Cook took the stage at an Apple Special Event held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco on 9 September. For a change, he wasted no time talking about statistics or sales but cut straight to the progress on the Apple Watch. Its updated OS (WatchOS 2) has made it possible for third party applications to create convenient and functional apps and interfaces. Schedules and updates look cleaner and interactive now, giving the product new hope. Third party app partners like Airstrip and GoPro give the watch new capabilities: like doctors being able to monitor patients remotely and getting live video feed from a GoPro camera on your watch, the sort of thing we expect from Hollywood potboilers.
It had been over two years since the Apple TV had seen any upgrades. The reason is clear now: it was being corrected from scratch. Apple TV now relies heavily on apps and Siri to become the centre of entertainment and gaming in the living room. Siri has made her way to the big screen with a new remote that has touchpad and buttons, letting you summon her, control the menu and playback. You’ll be scrolling or scrubbing through content using gestures familiar from touch screens. And if grandpa can’t figure out the controls, he can just tell Siri what he’s looking for and it’ll fetch the content, which can then be played with a simple tap on the glass touchpad on the remote. For times that you miss what the actor says, ask Siri what they said and it’ll rewind back to a few seconds and switch the subtitles on magically. We wonder if Apple would have come up with this feature if they hadn’t taken two years to work on perfecting their presence on TV. It showed practicality and human concern from a company that was built on the principle: “Users don’t know what they want until you give it to them.”
For times that you miss what the actor says, ask Siri what they said and it’ll rewind back and switch the subtitles on magically. We wonder if Apple would have come up with this feature if they hadn’t taken two years to work on perfecting their presence on TV. It showed practicality and human concern from a company that was built on the principle: “Users don’t know what they want until you give it to them.”
Gaming is big on the Apple TV, multiplayer gaming particularly so: the remote functions as a gamepad and a Wii controller while playing games. Multiplayer games just need an iPod Touch or iPhone to let others join the action. The much-awaited iPhone 6s gets the big ticket feature — 3D Touch. Paired with the Taptic Engine from Apple Watch (and the new Macbook Pro), it has now made its way to the iPhone. The phone is available in a new colour, Rose Gold, beside the three favourites. The iSight camera gets bumped to 12 MP with a two-tone flash and Retina flash — the screen flashes while taking photos from the front camera.
The 3D Touch is pressure sensitive: a tap does the same function as it did in previous versions but put a little bit of force on it and you get a quick menu which is similar to a right click — go directly into a Facebook status post, picture post or preview mail. Continue to apply force and you get more options than before. 3D Touch paired with iOS 9 makes getting things done quicker, so much so that switching between apps is as simple as applying force at the edge of the screen and swiping; no need to press the home button twice. And Apple seems to have a patent that can read fingerprints using the touch screen, which makes us wonder if the iPhone 6s and Plus are the last devices to sport the iconic Home button.
If we take Tim Cook’s word for it, the iPad Pro is the biggest announcement since the first iPad. We remember the first iPad being made fun of as an iPad Touch that someone very heavy had sat on. And yet, tablets from Google or Microsoft couldn’t replicate its success. The iPad Pro’s screen is as wide as the iPad Air is tall and weighs just 1.5 pounds. Realising Steve Jobs’ dream, the iPad Pro claims to be faster than 80% of the portable PCs shipped in the last 12 months. And with iOS 9, you can run multiple apps that can share a screen to multiply productivity.
To compete with Google’s services on productivity, the Corporate VP from Microsoft Office made an appearance at the Keynote. He spoke about their Office apps’ performance on the iPad Pro and its compatibility with the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil turns the iPad Pro from a larger iPad into an illustration tool. The iPad Pro and Pencil can detect position, force and tilt to create strokes of desired width and shade with extremely low latency. As Jony Ive said in the Apple Pencil video, it delivers “precision that actually gives you the ability to touch every pixel.” The cover designed for the iPad Pro has a smart keyboard and attaches through a new “smart connector” technology for power and data exchanges.
And just like that, Apple has now renewed their entire lineup of products this year. The iPhone upgrade program is also being launched at Apple Retail Stores (in the US), with the promise of bringing it to other countries as well. Under the scheme, you get a new iPhone every year, get to choose which carrier it works on, includes AppleCare+ and starts at $32 a month. While India is not on the list for the initial rollouts of any of the products announced, iOS 9 is releasing on September 16 worldwide.