Rumor mill fail: Apple delivers legit surprises at iPhone 11 event

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Tim Cook delivers the goods at Apple's iPhone 11 event.
Tim Cook delivers the goods at Apple's iPhone 11 event.
Photo: Apple

In an age when almost every detail of an Apple keynote leaks ahead of time, Tim Cook managed to pull some genuine surprises from the hat Tuesday. Taking the stage at the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple HQ, Cook and Co. announced at least three big things we weren’t expecting at all.

This in itself is a surprise. Even though Cook pledged that Apple is “doubling down” on secrecy, most of the big details about new Apple products typically trickle out ahead of time. Most of the main features of the 2019 iPhones already leaked. Every Apple blog and YouTube channel under the sun has been playing with detailed iPhone mockups and models for weeks.

Still, Cook’s surprise trifecta did not consist of insignificant things. All three were fairly big and meaty announcements — and there wasn’t a peep about them ahead of time. Here’s what took us by surprise during the “By Innovation Only” event.

Always-on Apple Watch screen

Thanks to a new LTPO screen, Apple Watch Series 5 will be always on
Thanks to a new LTPO screen, Apple Watch Series 5 will be always on.
Screenshot: Apple

The new Apple Watch Series 5 boasts an always-on screen. This is fantastic — and wasn’t rumored at all!

Previous Apple Watch models would go dark when you lowered your wrist, but the screen on the new Series 5 models stays lit up. Now, the new low-temperature polysilicon and oxide (LTPO) display simply dims, allowing you to see the time or complications. Raising your wrist or tapping the screen brings it to full brightness. And because the new screen is supremely power-efficient, the watch still manages the same 18-hour battery life.

What’s more impressive is that a major upgrade like this — which is, in fact, the Apple Watch Series 5 marquee feature — didn’t leak. There wasn’t a murmur about it. Now that’s doubling down.

5 extra hours of iPhone battery life

iPhone Pro Max battery life gains an extra five hours
iPhone Pro Max battery life gains an extra five hours.
Screenshot: Apple

Another major feature that no one suspected is that the new iPhones get an extra four to five hours of battery life. Again, this is a major feature that generated nary a rumor before the show.

The new iPhone 11 Pro boasts four hours more battery life than iPhone XS, Apple says, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max lasts five hours longer than the XS Max. (Both new models come with an 18-watt fast charger in the box.)

There’s some speculation on Twitter that the improved battery is to support reverse wireless charging of AirPods and Apple Watch, a rumored feature that wasn’t announced during the keynote, reportedly because it underperformed.

iPhone battery life — and extending it — is probably one of the most important features consumers ask for. That Apple was able to do it, and nobody leaked it, is a major achievement in itself.

Apple TV+ pricing

The new Apple TV+ streaming service will cost just $4.99 a month, with a free one-year trial after a hardware purchase
The new Apple TV+ streaming service will cost just $4.99 a month, with a free one-year trial after a hardware purchase.
Screenshot: Apple

We heard loads of speculation before Tuesday’s keynote about how Apple would price Apple TV+, its forthcoming streaming video service. Many suspected Apple would charge $9.99 a month for the fledgling service, which is much shorter on programming than rivals like Netflix and the upcoming Disney+.

So Cook blew everyone’s socks off with the news that Apple TV+ will cost just $4.99 a month. Even better, it will be free for one year with a qualifying hardware purchase. And, thanks to Family Sharing, up to six family members can share one Apple TV+ subscription.

The new service will debut November 1 in more than 100 countries, and feature dozens of shows at launch, with more being added every month. The shows at launch will include The Morning Show, For All Mankind, See, The Elephant Queen and Dickinson.

There’s even a seven-day free trial.

The pricing and family sharing plans make Apple TV+ a no-brainer to try out. It costs less than a sandwich!

Kudos to Tim Cook for delivering some genuine shockers during the iPhone 11 event. In a landscape littered with supply-chain rumors, disgruntled Apple leakers and source-code revelations, uncorking three unexpected surprises feels like a legitimate accomplishment.