7 things to love (or hate) from the Apple September event

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7 things to love (or hate) from the Apple September event
There was a lot to love at the Apple September event. But not everything.
Photo: Apple

Apple surprised us several times Tuesday during its September product launch event. There was a lot to love on display … but not everything was awesome. We got some products we expected and some we didn’t.

Here are the high and low points of Apple’s “California Streaming” event.

iPhone 13 is very different from iPhone 13 Pro

Apple clearly worked hard to differentiate the basic iPhone 13 from the Pro models. In previous years, these have been very similar, even having the same processor. Better cameras and the big Pro Max screen were really the only draw for the Pro models. Not this time.

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max have a laundry list of features not in the cheaper version. There’s a 120 MHz screen and a better version of the A15 Bionic chip. And you can get them with 1TB of storage. Plus, there are the expected camera features that are only for the Pro models.

These will have people who chose the iPhone 11 or iPhone 12 before feeling very tempted to go with the more-expensive iPhone 13 Pro. — Ed Hardy

The rumors were right! The rumors were wrong!

Despite Apple’s best efforts, tipsters did a nearly perfect job of describing the iPhone 13 series months before the release. They were right about the shrinking notch, the 120Hz screen, the 1TB of storage option, the camera improvements. The iPhone 13 rumor mill proved nearly spot on.

The same can’t be said about Apple Watch Series 7. Multiple rumors indicated we would see a radical redesign with flat edges like so many other Apple products. Nope. Still, the rumored larger display did put in an appearance. (More on this in a bit.)

Plus, many people were caught by surprise when a new budget iPad 9 and iPad mini were unveiled. The tipsters mostly pointed to those coming later. And one of the most-rumored products wasn’t there at all. — Ed Hardy

What happened to AirPods 3?

Many analysts predicted Apple’s “California Streaming” event would announce the arrival of AirPods 3, a new set of earbuds slotted in between AirPods 2 and the premium AirPods Pro.

They said it would be the biggest AirPods refresh since Apple made long white stems ubiquitous starting in 2016. They said the new ones would look a lot more like AirPods Pro, but probably lack active noise cancellation, Transparency audio and silicone eartips. They suggested AirPods 2, launched in 2019, would remain but see a healthy price drop.

But did any of that happen Tuesday? No. Why? Who knows. And so it goes with these things. An AirPods refresh remains (over)due. — David Snow

Apple Watch Series 7 is bigger, badder than ever

Apple Watch Series 7 boasts 50% more screen area than Series 3.
Apple Watch Series 7 boasts 50% more screen area than Series 3.
Image: Graham Bower/Cult of Mac

As mentioned, Apple Watch Series 7 didn’t bring the widely rumored flat-edged redesign. Nor did it augment the Series 6’s sensor array with new health-oriented additions. Instead, Apple focused on making its smartwatch more durable — and more dazzling.

The Series 7’s marquee feature is its larger screen, which Apple COO Jeff Williams said offers nearly 20% more screen area than the already impressive Series 6. (It’s more than 50% bigger than Series 3.) And that screen is brighter, and more more crack-resistant, than ever.

The refined design comes with softer, more-rounded edges. And the Series 7 user interface makes better use of the watch’s increased screen real estate (think bigger buttons and more text on the screen).

The changes might not might not sound as exciting as a revolutionary redesign. But like Apple Watch Series 4, I bet the evolutionary changes will look fantastic in person — and fuel loads of instant in-store upgrades when fence-sitters get their first glimpse at it. — Lewis Wallace

Your old Apple Watch bands will fit Series 7

Everyone who owns a collection of Apple Watch bands — and covets the Series 7’s sweet display — breathed a sigh of relief when Apple CEO Jeff Williams uttered these magic words: “Series 7 is compatible with all existing bands.”

That’s not a gigantic shocker, really. Apple would certainly face a bit of a backlash if expensive band collections became obsolete overnight, so maintaining compatibility makes sense. But things like that sometimes happen, and speculation prior to the event made some folks nervous.

Smart move, Apple! — Lewis Wallace

iPad 9 takes Center Stage

Apple surprised almost everyone by unveiling the iPad 9 when iPhone is usually the focus for the September event. That said, this is primarily a “speed bump” upgrade with a faster processor for Apple’s entry-level tablet.

But there is a truly standout feature that’s perfect for the budget iPad. It comes with a 12MP front-facing camera with a wide-angle lens that allows the tablet to support Center Stage. This feature keeps the user centered in a video stream without the camera having to move. But the camera really seems to be moving. I love it on my iPad Pro and use it in a variety of applications: FaceTime, Zoom and Google Duo.

The low-cost iPad is used by so many school kids, and Center Stage genuinely improves video conferencing. It lets you stop having to be careful the camera is pointed at you perfectly, something many young people aren’t good at. — Ed Hardy

Apple September event marketing gets even more mind-blowing

Since way back in the Steve Jobs era, Cupertino exhibited a special knack for knocking it out of the park with its keynote. During Tuesday’s California Streaming event, the marketing team’s efforts burned like a wildfire: hot, fast and completely unpredictable.

We saw, in no particular order:

  • A closeup shot of what looked like boulders bouncing harmlessly off the Apple Watch Series 7’s impact-resistant screen.
  • An impressive short film that showcased the iPhone 13’s new Cinematic Mode.
  • Sweeping shots of a violinist sawing away in the middle of a desert (for no apparent reason).
  • A behind-the-scenes reel of director Kathryn Bigelow and cinematographer Greig Frazer showcasing the iPhone 13 Pro’s capabilities.
  • Mind-blowing transitions that kept us thoroughly entertained throughout the breezy hour-and-15-minute presentation.

Overall, the imagery employed made other tech companies’ efforts look like a Dumpster fire in comparison. — Lewis Wallace

Get caught up

Did you miss all the hoopla of the Apple September event? You can easily get caught up by watching the archived version on YouTube. Or take a dive into Cult of Mac‘s full coverage of the California Streaming event.