Coverage: Apple reveals new products, upgrades
Unsurprisingly, the world seemingly stopped Wednesday as Apple CEO Tim Cook and his team revealed the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s latest innovations. From an iPad Pro to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, Apple threw out all the stops for its product announcements.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) September 10, 2015
Thomas Gryta and Ryan Knutson of The Wall Street Journal broke down how the Apple’s iPhone had more implications than just coming in a new color:
Carriers have been instrumental in the success of the iPhone, the ubiquitous device that accounted for about 56% of Apple’s $183 billion in sales last year. But the new finance offer reflects competing pressures on Apple, which seeks more buyers to upgrade their phones each year, and the wireless carriers, which look to keep their customers from switching to a rival.
Apple will offer a monthly fee of $32.41 over 24 months for its cheapest iPhone model under the new program announced Wednesday at the latest iPhone launch. The deal allows customers to get a new device each year, as well as select their carrier with each upgrade, according to the Apple website.
Denny Strigl, Verizon’s former chief operating officer, said Apple’s move is a sign it wants to wrest control of customers from wireless carriers. Companies that control the customer relationship have more leverage in pricing and sales, he said.
If customers go to Apple to finance their phones and choose a carrier, for example, Apple will be able to steer that customer’s decision, and possibly guide them toward a carrier with a cheaper service, according to Mr. Strigl.
Wireless carriers have been replacing traditional two-year contracts that restrict upgrades with installment plans that spread the price out over two years. That can be painful for Apple because those plans make clear the cost of the device, prompting some customers to delay buying the latest iPhone.
The average upgrade time in the U.S. has risen from 18.2 months in 2010 to an estimated 26.3 months in 2015, according to data from telecom consultant Chetan Sharma.
Apple rolled out two new smartphones Wednesday—the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. They are the same size as the current iPhone 6 and 6 Plus but have improved cameras and a “3-D Touch” feature that allows people to interact with smartphone screens in new ways.
It is unclear whether the new features will draw the same customer response as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In the three full quarters those phones have been sold, iPhone revenues have grown more than 50% from the same period a year earlier.
Katie Benner of The New York Times described the features of Apple’s iPad Pro and updated Apple TV:
The makeover of the iPad is reminiscent of Apple’s decision last year to introduce the larger-screen phones, a move that many also had said the company would never make.
Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, called the new iPad Pro “the most capable” tablet the company has ever created. With a larger screen and optional keyboard, it becomes a device that is meant to be useful for both the creation and consumption of content.
“It makes sense for Apple to reveal a new keyboard along with new, larger-screen iPads with faster processors,” said Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein. “The message being that Apple is trying to push the iPad to be more of a PC replacement, a converged device of a tablet notebook that has broader computing powers.”
But starting at $800 (not including the optional $170 keyboard and the $100 stylus), it is much more expensive than earlier iPads.
Mr. Sacconaghi added that Apple had long rejected the idea that it would create such a device, but now some of the pieces are in place. The new iPad runs Microsoft Office software and has a faster processor so it can handle more complex computing tasks.
Mr. Cook also presented a new, enhanced Apple TV, which represents the company’s most ambitious effort yet to become the focal point of home entertainment systems. Apple TV already streams videos and music. Now it is set to offer video games, shopping and travel tools through an expanded array of apps.
“Our vision for TV is simple,” Mr. Cook said. “We believe the future of television is apps.”
The new version of Apple TV also includes a remote control that could be used as a video game controller. The product now comes with a higher price tag that starts at $150, up from $70, indicating that the company is betting that consumers will think all of the new features are worth the higher price.
Mark Bergen of Re/code focused on Siri’s involvement with the updated Apple TV and how it could threaten competitor Google:
When introducing its TV service, Apple focused extensively on the presence of Siri, its voice-activated artificial intelligence. There’s a Siri button on the Apple TV remote. It lets users find content from Apple’s library and search within shows, asking Siri, for instance, to rewind a few seconds or to find a particular actor’s cameo. Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP, said the function “will search across multiple content apps and give you all your viewing options on a single screen.”
There’s another key feature for Siri on Apple TV, one that may have Google on alert. Viewers can pause shows midstream, through voice activation, to ask related or unrelated questions. Watching “Modern Family” and curious about the score of the San Francisco Giants game? Just ask Siri. She’ll pull it up for you on the screen.
Sound familiar? It should if you’ve been following what Google has in the works on mobile. Now on Tap, its upcoming feature on Android, does precisely this — pulling Google’s search information into relevant moments within apps. It’s part of its ongoing effort at “deep linking” and app indexing, methods to scrape app content much like it has the Web.
Apple has hinted at similar efforts on mobile, a move that concerns Google, since it would, conceivably, limit Google’s search reach. Google has yet to announce plans to bring its search to other platforms, like the television. But it’s not a stretch to assume it will. Although, Google has stumbled with its television plans in the past.
Google is still widely considered well ahead of Apple on search and AI technology. Still, it looks as though Apple is trying to race ahead.
The Verge’s Dan Deifert laid out the features of Apple’s new stylus, the Apple Pencil:
Apple just announced the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, its biggest iPad yet. It’s a more powerful and more capable iPad than ever before, and it comes with something many thought Apple would never sell with an iOS device: a stylus. It’s called the Apple Pencil, and it includes pressure sensitive technology and can be used simultaneously with a finger. Pressing lightly will produce a thin stroke, while firmer pressure can result in a heavier, darker stroke. That’s similar to how Samsung’s S Pen works on its various Note smartphones and tablets.
The Pencil is an active stylus and is recharged via a Lightning connector hidden inside its body. It can recharge right from the iPad Pro’s port and Apple says a full charge offers 12 hours of use. If you’re in a hurry, a mere 15 seconds of charging can add 30 minutes of usage time to the Pencil. Physically, the Pencil is round, which means it could roll off your desk fairly easily, and it’s much longer than the many third-party styluses that have been available for years.
Apple says that a variety of its own apps will support Pencil, including the new Notes and Mail apps in iOS 9. It will also work in third-party apps, including Microsoft’s Office suite for the iPad. Adobe’s suite of Photoshop apps for the iPad are also being updated to support the Pencil. It’s likely that many other third party note-taking and drawing apps will also be swiftly updated with Pencil support.
The Pencil will cost $99 and will be available with the iPad Pro in November.