The "Time Flies" Event
On September 15, Apple held its second all-digital major press event of the year, calling it "Time Flies". Ordinarily, the September event is where we get to see the latest iPhone, among other products. Even Apple isn't immune to the craziness of life in the year 2020, however; it seems we'll have to wait a bit longer for the new iPhone. Instead, today was about Apple Watch and iPad. It wasn't all hardware, though. We also got a new fitness service, the news that all the major operating system updates are coming on September 16, and more.
Apple Watch is now available in three versions: the Series 6, at the high end; SE, a budget option with similar specs to the (now defunked) Series 5; and Series 3, which has been around for quite a while. Apple also introduced two major new software options for the device.
Apple Watch Series 6 keeps all the features from the Series 5--ECG capability, always-on display, compass, and so on--but adds even more. It includes the S6 chip, which Apple says is up to 20% faster than the S5 chip in the Series 5, and supports 5GhZ wifi networks for, hopefully, faster wifi speeds. Its display is the same size as the one on the Series 5, but is two and a half times brighter when in its standby (visible, but not active) mode. This makes it easier to see in bright light.
The headline health feature is the blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) sensor, which will automatically record the level of oxygen present in your blood, just as Apple Watch has always recorded your heart rate. The Series 6 also includes faster charging, and an altimeter with associated watch face complication. The ability to recharge more quickly, paired with the new SpO2 sensor, should lead to more accurate, and less frustrating, sleep tracking. Apple is also partnering with more researchers, as the new sensor will allow for studies on asthma, COVID-19/the flu, and heart failure.
Apple Watch SE, the cheaper model, includes the same processor as the Series 5. In fact, it seems to be a Series 5, but with the ECG sensor removed. It has the 5's fitness tracking sensors, compass, and display, though this display lacks the always on ability of the Series 5 and 6. The SE only comes in aluminum, not the stainless steel and titanium case options we're used to, but this is a budget option anyway, so that makes sense. Still, it includes heart rate notifications, fall detection, and emergency SOS, making it a good value if you don't care about the advantages of the Series 6.
It is worth noting that neither the SE nor the Series 6 come bundled with USB wall chargers anymore. They still include the charging cable, but not the box that connects the cable to the wall. Apple's logic is that, by now, nearly everyone has more of those little boxes than they know what to do with, so it's only contributing to the world's e-waste problem to keep making more of them.
The Series 6 starts at $399, and comes in aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. Color options include the usual silver, gold, and space gray, but there are some new options: blue aluminum, gold stainless steel, and graphite titanium. The SE is only available in aluminum, as mentioned, and comes in the three standard colors. It starts at $279. Both come in Product Red as well. The price and options for the Series 3 haven't changed, so you can still get this starting at $199.
One more thing: there are new watch bands to go along with these new watches. The Solo Loop is a stretchy version of the silicone bands that come with most Apple Watches, letting you simply pull your watch on or off without worrying about a buckle or clasp. The braided variant is the same idea, but made with yarn interwoven with the silicone. There is also a leather link band, though the presenter didn't give us enough detail to let us explain it here.
Apple Fitness Plus
Apple surprised us with the reveal of a new monthly streaming service. It's not TV or movies, though, it's a fitness service called Apple Fitness Plus. Professional trainers make video workouts in several categories, from dance, to yoga, to HIIT, to walking or running, and more. Each week, you get a new batch of workout videos. You choose your trainer, the workout type, and the kind of music you want to pair with the workout, and off you go.
To begin, you start a workout on an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. When you do, your Apple Watch will start the right kind of workout automatically, and display its usual set of metrics. However, the device you used to initiate the workout will show more details, as well as--of course--the instructor's video. It can even show extra things, like a countdown during a HIIT interval, or an animation if you close an activity ring during the workout.
The service costs $9.99 per month, and works with family sharing. If you purchase a new Apple Watch, you will get three months of this new service for free. It seems that some companies are getting in on the fun as well. For instance, Best Buy and CVS members could get even more free months.
Watches for the Whole Family
Apple has released a new family mode for Apple Watch, letting a single iPhone control watches used by children, older parents, or anyone you might want to keep track of but who doesn't have an iPhone of their own.
Using this new tool, an Apple Watch gets its own number for calls and texts, and is in constant communication with its parent iPhone. You can find its location, restrict the apps it can access, and more. You can also set up "school time", which enables Do Not Disturb, disallows the use of most apps, and changes the look of the watch face. Parents or teachers can tell at a glance whether an Apple Watch is in school mode thanks to this change.
This is a free service on Apple's part, but that doesn't mean it'll be cheap. First, it requires a Series 4 or newer, so you can't pick up one of those $199 Series 3 devices for this purpose. Second, the watch you use must have cellular capability, driving the price up even more. Third, it seems that the watch will have to be on a cellular plan so it can be actively pinged at any time.
iPad and iPad Air
iPad (Apple's lowest-cost tablet) and iPad Air both got updates today. Pricing seems to be the same as it was before these updates, at $329 and $599 respectively. The main difference to your options when purchasing is that the Air now comes in two new colors: rose gold and green.
The iPad 8 is the successor to the iPad 7, and remains the lowest-cost iPad you can get. Physically, the 8 is identical to the 7, with the same Smart Connector, Apple Pencil 1 support, Touch ID, cameras, and display. The change is in the CPU, which went from the A10 to the A12. Apple says this gives iPad 8 40% more CPU performance, and twice the graphics power, over the 7.
The iPad Air got a lot more love. It now uses the A14 chip, which is 40% faster and has 30% better graphics than the A13 in the previous Air. The screen is now 10.9 inches of liquid retina, laminated, True Tone-enabled visual goodness, pushing out the home button completely. Touch ID remains, but has moved to the top button. Moving Touch ID to a new location is a first since Apple debuted the feature all the way back with the iPhone 5S.
Touch ID on a different button was unexpected, but it's not the only major change to the design. This iPad looks the same, but it has swapped out its Lightning connector for USB-C, just as you'd find on an iPad Pro. Apple pointed out the advantages in speed and ease of connecting peripherals, saying that this port's 5gbps speed is ten times what Lightning can manage. This lets the Air connect to fast storage drives, 4K monitors, and more.
Other highlights of this update include stereo speakers (when in landscape mode), much-improved cameras, a magnetic Apple Pencil mounting point, and faster LTE. iPad Pro still holds the top spot in the iPad world, with its lidar sensor, quad speakers, superior display, and other advantages, but the Air just became a much more compelling option than it was before this announcement.
The final bit of news is all about Apple's services. They now offer a lot of monthly options: iCloud storage, Apple Arcade, Apple TV Plus, Apple News Plus, Apple Music, and, as of today, Apple Fitness Plus. To help people use more of these services, Apple One is being offered. It bundles most or all of the above together, and is available to those using Family Sharing as well.
Apple One comes in three tiers:
- Individual: all services except Apple Fitness Plus and Apple News Plus are included, along with 50GB of iCloud storage, for $14.99 per month.
- Family: this has the same services as the previous plan, but with 200GB of iCloud storage, and can be shared through Family Sharing. It costs $19.99 per month.
- Premier: as you'd expect from its name, this tier includes every one of the services listed above, and maxes out the iCloud storage at 2TB. It, too, can be used with Family Sharing. It costs $29.99 per month, and isn't available in all countries.
Apple also says that if you sign up for any of the above plans, you will get 30 days of free access to any of the included services you don't already have. Apple One is coming this fall, with no specific date yet announced.
Time Has Flown
That's the event. Apple Watch 6 and SE, new iPad and iPad Air, Apple One, and some great new software features for Apple Watch. There was also the surprise announcement that iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and tvOS will all be updated on September 16, just a day after the presentation. No mention was made of macOS, leaving some to speculate that another event later this year will discuss it, along with the new Apple Silicon Mac we were promised back in June.
Let us know what you thought in the comments. Are you going to get your first Apple Watch, or finally upgrade from an old one? Did the Series 6 make a good enough case for you to want to replace your Series 4 or 5? Are you considering the new iPads? Will anyone be signing up for Apple One?