Apple’s “Hey Siri” September event in San Francisco was both a very long one and one that ended way too quickly. Announcements and feature overviews flew past as members of the media chase time and sanity to stay on top of things. Now that the event is over and all announcements have been made, here are the highlights from the event.
1. The iPad Pro is Apple’s Answer to Microsoft Surface.
Rumours of an extra large iPad have been circulating since last year, and they were indeed true: the iPad Pro is unashamedly large with a 12.9-inch Retina display and “desktop class” performance. What Apple has done here is offering the best of what the iPad and MacBook Air offer into a single hybrid device, providing what it considers to be the perfect balance between a productivity and entertainment machine.
The two accessories for the iPad Pro – the Smart Keyboard cover and Apple Pencil stylus – further enhance the “productivity” side of the tablet, though the full set will set you back quite a bit: the iPad Pro starts at $799, while the Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil will retail for $169 and $99 respectively.
2. There’s a Reason Why the Event is Called “Hey Siri”.
At the announcement of the new Apple TV, Siri plays an exceptionally prominent role in enhancing the entire viewing experience. The remote, called Siri Remote, offers users a powerfully simple way to use Apple TV: your voice. The Siri Remote not only packs a touchpad, there’s also an integrated microphone. Apple TV supports universal voice search, delivering results from apps like iTunes, Netflix, Hulu and more when you say the name of a movie or actor. Support for contextual search also means you can say things like “play the Modern Family episode with Edward Norton,” and Siri will gladly do so without a hitch.
On the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Siri is now always on – a simple “Hey Siri” query instantly activates the personal assistant. The system works similar to the “OK Google” on Android, where the phone actively listens for the hot word. Current-gen iOS devices only have this feature when the devices are plugged in and charging.
3. “What Did They Say?”
On Apple TV, there’s a new feature where saying something like “what did he/she/they say?” into the Siri Remote results in any video you’re viewing to rewind 15 seconds. We can all see a situation where this is super useful, and 15 seconds seems like just the right duration to get back into the scene before you were rudely interrupted by a phone call, small talk with other viewers – or the dreaded family member or friend who just needs to ask what’s happening in the most inappropriate of times.
4. Gaming on Apple TV
Finally, you can play games on Apple TV. With a new app store dedicated for apps and games for the Apple TV, you can be sure that developers will flock to create compelling and fun games for the new tvOS system powering the new Apple TV. The Siri Remote packs an accelerometer and gryo sensor which allows it to detect motion, giving you a WiiMote-like experience in playing games with it. The touchpad will also presumably allow you to play more relaxed games, while there will be support for third-party game controllers – this is a strong response to Android TV.
At launch, there are already some big name titles like Guitar Hero Live, Rayman Adventures, and even Disney Infinity. Meanwhile, the Apple TV-exclusive Beat Sports – a very similar game to Wii Sports – lets you use the sensor-packed remote or even an iPhone or iPod touch as controllers for multiplayer games.
Just as important is the fact that developers are encouraged to create “universal” games apps that allows users to pay once, and be allowed to play on phone, tablet and TV. Cloud saving is also a feature that developers can tap into, offering a sense of continuity that gamers will likely be very excited about.
5. Apple Reluctantly Announced a New iPad Mini. Again.
Just like last year, the incremental update of the iPad mini was very quickly announced and then brushed aside. Apple spent a total of about one minute and just a few slides to talk about the new iPad mini 4, which now packs a faster processor and better camera. The company also did not explicitly state that the iPad mini 3 has been discontinued, rather allowing the pricing slide reveal what was truly a sorry end to what was seemingly a reluctantly released product.
6. People Are Going to Go Crazy For the Rose Gold iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: the Rose Gold colourway is just another way of calling it Pink. The softer, more feminie hue will inevitably attract yet another section of potential customers – it’s already gotten our assistant editor, Huei, completely smitten. You just know this colour is going to make the phone yet another runaway…6S (get it?)
7. 3D Touch is Like Right-Clicking for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
The highly-anticipated introduction of Force Touch into the iPhone, 3D Touch offers a new type of touch interaction with the iPhone’s display. Sensors located beneath the display backlight measure the distance between the glass and backlight, giving an impression of how “hard” a user is pressing. As such, the phone can differentiate between a normal tap and a hard press.
For now, the main applications of 3D Touch is very similar to a long-press on Android or a right-click on Windows devices. Users can activate two 3D Touch gestures: Pop and Peek, both of which offer contextual menus, preview information, or even enter specific parts of the app (on stage, Apple demonstrated how you can use 3D Touch to immediately open the front-facing camera right from the home screen).
Of course, as developers experiment with more ways to interact with 3D Touch, this technology will mature into what Apple intends it to be: another type of touch interaction. For game developers, this will surely be an exciting tool to make full use of.
8. There’s a New Camera On the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus.
Finally, right? The two new iPhones finally get a larger 12MP rear camera sensor, and a much-needed 5MP front-facing shooter (because selfies). The new sensor may offer 50% more pixels, but more importantly, it has been tuned to perform even better than Apple’s previous 8MP iSight camera. The new sensor is said to offer better image quality, accurate colours, and improved autofocus – it can now also record in 4K resolutions. However, like the iPhone 6, only the larger iPhone 6S Plus has optical image stabilisation (OIS).
On the software front, Apple has introduced Live Photos, which essentially plays a short video clip of the moment you took a photo when you “3D Touch” an image on the gallery. It’s very similar to HTC Zoe, and perhaps just as gimmicky – but with Apple’s army of users onboard, there’s no reason not to brush it off as just another feature. More importantly, there’s the option to use the display as a flash for the front facing camera – the entire screen lights up in natural tones for that perfect selfie in low-light conditions. The larger spread of the light will likely mean you won’t be blinded and also result in a softer flash effect so you don’t look like a deer on a highway.
9. You Can Upgrade to a New iPhone Every Year Without a Contract.
Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program lets you pay for a new iPhone in a 24-month instalment plan, but with the option of upgrading to a newer version of the iPhone after 12 months. It is probably good news for Apple fans who regularly upgrades their iPhones every year, but as we mentioned here it is mostly benefiting Apple.
Incidentally, Malaysian telco Maxis introduced a smartphone upgrade plan that is remarkably similar to the iPhone Upgrade Program. Since this Apple program is limited just to the US, the Maxis Zerolution is your next best choice if you’re looking to upgrade to a new phone every year.
10. Current-Gen iPhones and iPads Have NOT Depreciated in Price.
Okay, so this didn’t happen during the event, but it is definitely something all Malaysians should be aware of. Thanks to our ever-weakening currency, virtually the entire range of iPhone and iPad models sold in Malaysia is now more expensive to purchase. While the damage is not so bad for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and 5S, the price difference is staggering on the current-gen iPads. Where the price difference is at most RM150 or so for the iPhone 6 Plus, you are now expected to pay almost RM500 more for a new iPad.
It’s crazy to think that the price of a product would appreciate when a newer model is out, but a combination of Apple products’ resale value and a plummeting Ringgit has resulted in this unique phenomenon. For once, you can’t wholly blame Apple for this.