Far from the “boring” launch predicted by haters and relentless Apple rumormongers, Wednesday’s iPhone 7 event delivered plenty of big surprises.
Along with our first legitimate looks at the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and the new Apple Watch Series 2, we got a promising peek inside Apple’s increasingly powerful and polished ecosystem. Here’s what you need to know about Apple’s iPhone 7 event.
iPhone 7 is a beautiful monster
We’ll be getting not one but two new black iPhones, including a jet black model that looks like it would perfectly match Darth Vader’s headgear (who cares if it might launch “Scuffgate“?). And while those and the silver, gold and rose gold iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus might look similar to last year’s models, the similarities stop there.
A newly customizable Home button gains loads of additional functionality. Rough-housers will appreciate new water- and dust-resistant features, while shutterbugs will love the powerful new camera (especially the dueling 12MP lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus).
The Retina HD display is 25 percent sharper, while the new stereo speakers crank up two times louder with increased dynamic range. iPhone 7 models will come with EarPods as well as an audio-to-Lightning dongle (hey, it’s ugly but it’s free) to make up for the missing headphone jack.
But the really big improvement is the new Apple-designed A10 Fusion chip, which Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, called a “rocket ship.” Look for gigantic performance improvements (it’s 40 percent faster than the A9 inside the iPhone 6s) as well as better battery life.
Preorders start at 12:01 a.m. Pacific this Friday, Sept. 9, with iPhone 7 starting at $649 and iPhone 7 Plus starting at $769. Shipping starts ship Sept. 16.
Apple Watch goes deep and wide
Updates and expansions to Apple’s wearable computer line go far beyond the slimmer/better device (and the watchOS 3 improvements) the world expected. The “completely reengineered” Apple Watch Series 2 comes with a second-gen Apple-designed SiP that packs a “crazy amount of performance,” according to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.
The new display is twice as bright. Built-in GPS offers new potential to apps for running and hiking. And the whole thing is built into a “swim-proof” case that’s water-resistant to 50 meters, with speakers that eject water after a dunking.
A partnership with Nike is yielding a running-centric Apple Watch Nike+, while an $1,149 Hermès model will fill the fashion niche. And there’s even a ceramic Edition model that will start at $1,249.
As with iPhone 7, preorders for new Apple Watch models start at 12:01 a.m. Pacific this Friday, Sept. 9. Apple Watch Series 1 models, largely similar to the original Apple wearable but with a new dual-core processor, start at $269. The further upgraded Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369.
Apple does care about games
Mario is coming to the iPhone for the first time, thanks to a surprise partnership with Nintendo. The new game, called Super Mario Run, sparked immediate enthusiasm among casual gamers everywhere.
Apple also sewed up another big deal, this time with Niantic Labs. That’s right, Pokémon Go is coming to Apple Watch (even if the formerly white-hot game is already fading a bit from the public eye).
Apple’s future is wireless
Calling its controversial move to kill the headphone jack “courageous,” Schiller sang the praises of Apple’s new AirPods, which will ship in late October for $159. “Our team at Apple has worked so hard to create something new that delivers on the opportunity of how good a wireless experience can be,” he said.
Schiller promised to deliver us from the “joys” of Bluetooth with the AirPods, which he called a “technical tour de force” based on Apple’s new W1 chip. The tiny earbuds deliver five hours of listening, connect seamlessly to Apple devices, and switch automatically between them depending on what you’re listening to. They also come in a wireless charging case that gives you 24 hours of listening, all in a form factor smaller than the EarPods cases we’re all so used to seeing.
New Beats headphones will also use the W1 chip.
The leaks never stop, but they are never enough
We probably knew more about the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch than ever before about an upcoming Apple product. And the leaks didn’t stop: Amazon and even Apple itself leaked info confirming the new phone’s name just before and during Wednesday’s iPhone 7 event.
We were expecting the inevitable performance boosts — and the death of the headphone jack, and even a glossy black iPhone with a better camera — but the number of truly surprising revelations seemed shocking. Perhaps even more so to a bunch of Apple rumor hounds like us here at Cult of Mac.
A ceramic Apple Watch? Super Mario Run on iOS and Pokémon Go on Apple Watch? Real-time collaboration in iWork? A gigantic post-show price cut on iPad Pro? It’s good to know Apple can still surprise us (in a good way).
Apple is at the top of its game
The iPhone 7 keynote came at a critical juncture for Apple. iPhone sales continue to slide. Apple is embroiled in a fierce and expensive European tax battle. And a series of modest, slow-building successes like the Apple Watch and Apple Music haven’t done much to quell the post-Steve Jobs chatter about an innovation drought in Cupertino.
But Wednesday’s exceptionally strong presentation of the latest, greatest Apple hardware and software should give pause to Cupertino skeptics.
Throughout the iPhone 7 event, Cook and the other Apple execs looked relaxed, focused and poised to usher us into the shiny future we’ve all been anticipating. Just for a moment, the Irish tax nightmare, Touch IC Disease and other Apple problems disappeared in a wave of cheery execs, bubbly celebrities, slick and compelling videos, and the lineup of sleek new products.
“We’re just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we’ve been working toward for many years,” said the disembodied voice of Apple design chief Jony Ive during one of his probably patented industrial design porn videos.
While Schiller called Apple “courageous,” there’s another word that springs to mind: confident.
For Apple, the future looks more than just wireless. It looks simple, and elegant, and packed with the kind of legitimate innovation — sometimes incremental, sometimes mind-blowing — that can make our lives better almost without us even noticing.
It’s truly a good time to be swimming in the Apple ecosystem (especially once you get that new waterproof Apple Watch). And just wait until tomorrow …