Today was Apple's Far Out event, introducing the world to the latest iPhones, Apple Watches, and AirPods. While the camera and screen improvements in iPhone 14 will surprise exactly no one, there was still an impressive amount of exciting news. Rather than trying to come up with more fluff for this introduction, I'll just get right to the fun part.
As it has done in the last couple years, Apple introduced four new iPhones. The news wasn't all good, though, at least not for fans of iPhone Mini. This year, the lineup consists of iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, and 14 Pro Max. If you have a 12 or 13 Mini and enjoy the small size, I'm sorry to say you'll either have to keep it or brace yourself for a larger phone. Still, big isn't necessarily bad, so let's dig into what these new phones have to offer.
For the first time since Apple introduced the Pro and non-Pro iPhone models, not all of them have the same processor. It used to be that iPhone Pros had better cameras and screens, but were powered by the same chips as their cheaper cousins. However, iPhone 14 uses an A15 processor, the same as what's in iPhone 13, but with an extra graphics core. Meanwhile, iPhone 14 Pro sports the A16 processor. That's a lot of numbers and chip names, isn't it? Bottom line: iPhone 14 has a processor that's almost the same as what's in iPhone 13, while the big upgrades to the processor are found only in iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max.
One interesting feature shared by all four phones is satellite communication. While you can't yet make calls or browse the web from anywhere in the world, you can now call (well, text) for help if you're out of range of any cellular coverage. Any iPhone 14 model is able to direct you where to point the phone so it gets the best view of a satellite. It will then send a compressed text message to emergency personnel, and will let you continue to text back and forth. In some cases, a voice relay service may be used. You can also use the same system to send a location update to your Find My friends, so they can at least see where you are when you're out of cellular range. While this will eventually be a paid feature, users will get two years for free with the activation of any iPhone 14. Only the U.S. and Canada are covered initially, but Apple plans to roll this out to more locations in the future.
All models also gain the ability to detect a car crash. I'll get into this more in the Apple Watch section, but basically, your phone will call for help if it thinks you've been involved in a crash.
One other commonality among all four of the new phones is one I didn't expect: no SIM tray. At least in the United States and nearby regions, all iPhone 14 variants will support eSIM, and that's it. Other regions will continue to use both eSIM and physical SIM cards, at least for now.
iPhone 14 has a screen size of 6.1 inches, and iPhone 14 Plus is 6.7 inches, which are the same sizes as the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Pro Max, respectively. Both have the same notch cutout at the top. Really, the upgrades over iPhone 13 are mostly in the afore-mentioned CPU tweaks, and some bumps to the cameras. Low light performance has improved, the front camera can now auto-focus, and there are other changes that, as always, up the iPhone's camera game. That's basically it, though. It sounds like iPhone 13 owners don't have much reason to upgrade this year.
If you do decide to upgrade, you can pre-order on September 9, with availability from September 16 for the iPhone 14, and October 7 for the iPhone 14 Plus. The prices are $799 for iPhone 14, and $899 for iPhone 14 Plus. As always, add more for more storage. These phones come in starlight, midnight, purple, blue, and (Product) Red.
iPhone 14 Pro
The screen sizes of this year's Pros match their cheaper counterparts: iPhone 14 Pro is 6.1 inches, and the Pro Max is 6.7 inches. This, though, is where the similarities end.
Staying on displays for a moment, the Pro has a new cutout at the top. While I couldn't find a good visual description, here's what I've pieced together about this interesting take on the notch.
It sounds like Apple has a pill-shaped cutout in the top center of the display. This houses the speaker, Face ID, proximity sensor, and other electronics. The screen is black on either side of this area, while in the center are pixels. Think of an ellipse, with a black line around the edge and screen in the center. This central ellipse portion is what Apple is calling the Dynamic Island. Strange name aside, the idea is pretty neat. The island can be used for several kinds of information: it can show album art, which can be tapped to show playback controls; it can show a live update notification, letting you watch a Lyft ride's progress; it can show when an app starts using your location or microphone; and a lot more.
iPhone 14 Pro has an always-on display, just like Apple Watches have offered for a few years. Updates to the display controller let the screen refresh itself as slowly as once per second, keeping the screen on without killing the battery. Combined with iOS 16's lock screen customization options, this should prove extremely helpful to those who can see the screen.
Speaking of stuff best appreciated by the sighted, let's get the camera upgrades out of the way. TL;DR: they're better, especially in low light, and can record even better video. The longer version: seriously, these cameras really are better. While one focus was certainly low light images, another was video recording. iPhone 14 Pro can record 4K video at 24 frames per second, and now offers an impressive-sounding stabilization mode. Apple went so far as to claim this "action mode" is so good, you will no longer need a gimbal. I'm skeptical, but that's what they said.
Prices haven't really changed. You can get iPhone 14 Pro for $999, and Pro Max for $1099. Preorders open on September 9, with availability from September 16. Your color options are silver, gold, space black, and deep purple.
As expected, today saw the introduction of Apple Watch Series 8, and we also received a couple extras. Apple Watch SE has been updated with the same chip found in the Series 8, and that's mostly it. The bigger surprise was Apple Watch Ultra, a watch aimed squarely at extreme sports enthusiasts.
There were also a couple software surprises for older Apple Watch models. The cellular Series 5 and newer will soon gain international roaming support, while the Series 4 and newer will get a new low power mode. When this mode is turned on, some background activities are paused, such as automatic workout detection and background heart rate readings. Apple says that an Apple Watch in low power mode will last up to 36 hours.
Apple Watch SE
This is the least exciting update for some people, but the SE certainly became more compelling today. While it still lacks an always-on display, it does now have the same chip as the Series 8. This lets it support irregular heartbeat notifications, car crash detection, and other features. It also means that this SE should receive software updates much further into the future than the old SE, or even a Series 6 or 7. Finally, Apple says that it's about 20% faster than the old SE it replaces.
Apple Watch SE is available in aluminum, and no other casing materials. It comes in midnight, starlight, and silver, and starts at $249. It can be pre-ordered today and will start arriving on September 16.
Apple Watch Series 8
The Series 8 is no faster than the Series 7, and it looks no different on the outside. It has the same physical design, the same screen, the same side button and crown, and the same size and material options. Don't worry, though, there are changes, they're just not on the outside.
Internally, things get more exciting. First, the Series 8 now includes a body temperature sensor. Well, actually, there are two sensors, one near your skin and one near the display. Apple says this offers more accurate readings, presumably since it can measure the ambient temperature to factor that into how warm your skin is. We don't yet know for sure if users can take their temperature whenever they want, or if the sensor is more for tracking changes over time than for giving specific readings. You see, when Apple talked about this feature, they focused on an unexpected area: ovulation. Combining temperature data taken while the user sleeps with the increased menstruation information supported by the upcoming watchOS 9, Apple is able to come up with when a user was most likely ovulating. Apple Watch can't predict this data, but you can look back at your recent history and see when ovulation probably happened. Alerts about irregular menstrual cycles will also be available, with Apple saying they wanted to support this since irregular cycles can indicate many serious health conditions.
The other internal change is the motion sensors. Apple has replaced the old set of sensors with two new ones that can track motion far faster. They can also take readings at up to 256 Gs. Why? Just as Apple Watch has been able to detect a fall and summon emergency services automatically, it can now detect car crashes. Apple says that front, side, and rear impacts are detectable, as are rollovers. Data from the new motion sensors is combined with noise from the microphone and even barometric data, and it's all run through AI right on the watch. If the AI thinks you've been in a crash, it will show an alert. If you don't cancel the process, it will notify your emergency contacts, then call emergency services to your location. As noted above, iPhone 14 and 14 Pro also have this feature.
Apple Watch Series 8 starts at $399 for the 41MM aluminum version, with prices seeming to match those of the Series 7. The aluminum casing comes in starlight, midnight, silver, and (Product) Red; the stainless steel in graphite, silver, and gold, and that's it. The titanium casing is no longer an option. You can pre-order today
Apple Watch Ultra
The Ultra is Apple's first attempt at making a watch specifically for extreme conditions. First, it's huge, at least as watches go. The screen is 49mm diagonally, which is 5mm larger than the 45mm Series 8. Second, it's rugged, with a titanium body and a special screen meant to easily resist impacts and scratches. Third, it's ruggedized, to the point where it can act as a dive computer. Fourth, it includes a customizable button, dual speakers, three microphones, and a larger battery.
Apple Watch Ultra is meant to be the companion for anyone in need of sports and fitness tracking, who doesn't want to worry about damaging their watch but still wants the features of watchOS. Are you lost? Try turning on the 87-decibel siren, or maybe retrace your steps with the new Backtrack feature. This lets you follow a route of GPS waypoints back out of the wilderness. Speaking of GPS, there is dual-band GPS on this model, which Apple says gives better signal near tall buildings and in other places where regular GPS fails. Are you in a triathlon? Use the action button to immediately switch workout types without having to interact with the screen, and use the bigger display to see more of your metrics at a glance. Is it bright out? No problem; the screen can get as bright as 2,000 nits, which should be visible in even direct sunlight. Will you be away from electricity for a while? Enable low power mode, and your Apple Watch Ultra's battery life will go from 36 hours all the way to 60. Do you enjoy diving? Apple Watch Ultra can keep working as deep as forty meters, and can be your dive computer while you're under the water, with pressure and temperature sensors.
The crown and buttons are designed to be used with gloves; the speakers and microphones are meant to let calls be audible, even in high winds; the screen is designed so the casing protects its edges; and the whole thing is made from titanium. It even has special bands, designed for oceans, hiking, and biking. The waterproofing is better than any other Apple Watch, so you can perform extreme water sports without worrying about damaging the watch. Basically, this thing is built like a tank, will last well over a day on a charge, and is meant to accompany you into extreme conditions.
Apple Watch Ultra only comes in a titanium casing with a 49mm screen, and all models include cellular connectivity. Your color options are, well, just titanium. With one color and one size, at least you won't be stuck wondering which model to get.
AirPods Pro 2
Finally, we have to talk about AirPods Pro. Apple released an update to these today, and there are a lot of things to like.
First, let's talk about the case. It has a loop for a lanyard or other strap, a speaker, and enough juice to provide thirty hours of playback. It also charges via Lightning or wireless, as before, but it can now charge using an Apple Watch charging puck--one fewer cable to carry. The speaker I mentioned is used to sound low battery and charging alerts, which is a great feature for those of us who can't see the LED indicator. It also lets Find My play a sound in case you lose the case.
The AirPods Pro received an even more impressive update. They can play audio for six hours, not five, and the stems now have a capacitive portion. Slide a finger along this area to change the volume without needing to touch your phone. If you always found the Pros to be a bit tight, you'll love the new extra small ear tips included in the box. Spacial Audio can now be customized to your ears and head shape, which should make it sound better and more realistic.
Speaking of sound, the active noise cancellation has been greatly improved: Apple claims AirPods Pro can now remove up to twice as much external sound as before. When you're using transparency mode, the sounds around you are sampled at a much faster rate. If any are too loud, your AirPods will lower the volume on those sounds to avoid hurting your ears.
AirPods Pro are available for $249, and still only come in white. You can pre-order yours starting on September 9, and they will be available from September 16.
That's All For Now
Apple Watches, new iPhones, and AirPods Pro updates are the big announcements from today. Are you planning to get anything? I'm really liking the new AirPods, but I'm not yet sure whether they're worth it for me. If the Series 8 watch can provide accurate body temperature readings, it might be handy to have instead of having to find an accessible thermometer. I'd bet that some of you are considering whether an Apple Watch is finally worth checking out, now that the latest chip is in a relatively cheap package in the form of the new SE. Nothing about the new iPhones is a big draw for me, but I imagine some people are interested in the satellite emergency SOS feature, or the more powerful chips in the Pro models. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!