The 10 most important things from Apple's iPhone 6S event
Rose gold iPhones, giant tablets, and a new Apple TV
Apple events can usually be referenced based on the one flagship they focus on: the iPad event, the iPhone event, the Apple Music event. That doesn’t work quite as well with today’s news-packed event. The company officially delivered on two long-overdue rumors: it refreshed the Apple TV, and it unveiled a giant, almost laptop-like iPad. The iPad Pro is a 12.9-inch behemoth with a matching stylus and keyboard, seemingly designed to fill the same market Microsoft is going after with the Surface. The Apple TV set-top box is back with a new remote and deep Siri integration. Both have a new ecosystem of apps, including productivity tools and games. And both are coming out later this fall: the TV in October, the iPad in November.
But the biggest news for most people will probably be the regular iPhone updates: the 6S and larger 6S Plus. While the design looks a lot like the last-generation iPhone 6, it’s been redesigned with better specs and a more complex “3D touch” interface. Before you start learning the approximately 300 new synonyms for “tap” that will become common in the coming months, take a look at the rest of the news below.
A novelty-sized iPad
The new iPad Pro has the biggest screen on an iOS device (and a bigger screen than some OS X devices.) At 12.9 inches, it can support a full-sized virtual keyboard, and will be the first iPad to feature an optional physical keyboard and stylus. The Pro will have an A9X memory chip, making it 1.8x faster than the A8X chip that’s in the iPad Air 2, and Apple claims it's faster than 80 percent of portable PCs (i.e. laptops) shipped in the past six months. The iPad Pro's new four-speaker audio setup will also rebalance itself based on how you hold it. The 10-hour battery life and 5.6 million pixels will also help it compete with traditional laptops — or other tablet and keyboard combinations.
Update: Read the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus review.
Apple invited Microsoft and Adobe up to demonstrate iPad Pro-focused versions of their iOS apps — Adobe Photoshop Fix is a new app that lets you quickly retouch photos using the stylus, while PowerPoint will now convert stylus ink into objects that you can use in your slides. The tablet is being positioned as a professional tool, with a price to match. The 32GB edition will cost you $799, while the 128GB will be $949, and LTE support bumps up the 128GB to $1079. The iPad Pro will be available in November in silver, gold, and space grey versions.
Styluses are hip again
Steve Jobs may have famously trashed styluses when the original iPad came out, but times have changed. The $99 Apple Pencil is a dedicated iPad Pro stylus that will allow for precision drawing and can be used simultaneously with a finger. Granted, Apple is jumping into a market that’s been filled by third-party designers for years, so anyone who absolutely needed a stylus for the smaller, existing iPads probably already has one. The same goes for the other new iPad Pro peripheral: a $169 woven "smart keyboard" case that looks a lot like Microsoft’s surface keyboards. Even if they’re not new concepts, this is the first time Apple has made its own versions of these accessories, positioning them as an integral part of the product. They’ll be out in November, along with the iPad Pro.
A very mini iPad refresh
While the iPad Pro brought a huge refresh to the iPad today, the iPad mini news was a little… smaller. The refreshed iPad mini 4, a new 7.9-inch tablet with the "power of the iPad Air 2," will cost $399, and the iPad mini 2 will see a price reduction to $269. The iPad Air didn’t see an update today, but the original Air will cost $399 while the Air 2 will cost $499.
Finally, a new Apple TV
The long overdue Apple TV is here, and it’ll run a separate OS, called… tvOS. As expected, the new Apple TV will have a Universal Search feature that lets you search across apps like iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu, and it will feature Siri in a big way. Similar to other set-top boxes, voice search will be the primary way to navigate. You can manually fast-forward by sliding your finger forward on the touchpad, but also do a quick 15 second rewind by asking Siri, "what did she say?"
The Apple TV will double as a gaming console — including games like the new Guitar Hero that were previously only available on consoles — and the UI has also been refreshed, featuring a new white background and redesigned apps. The new Apple TV is also far more powerful — it features a 64-bit A8 processor and can support Bluetooth 4.0. The new Apple TV will launch in October, at $149 for the 32GB version, and $199 for 64GB.
Siri in a remote
Apple’s humble TV remote has gotten a major makeover. The new device is a combination of traditional media remote, glass trackpad, motion controller, and Siri invocation tool. This Siri integration lets users do things like get movie recommendations and look up sports scores or the weather while watching TV. Turned sideways, it’s also a rudimentary gaming pad. It’s a little reminiscent of, among other things, Amazon’s FireTV remote — which had different hardware features but a similar blend of traditional media controls, search options, and gaming controls.
Apple Music (and more) on the big screen
Today, Apple doubled down on its prediction that apps are the future of television. The fourth-generation Apple TV finally has an Apple Music app, a feature that’s been noticeably absent since the service launched in June. It will function in the same way as its iOS and Mac counterparts, letting users make playlists, create music libraries, and listen to Beats 1 radio. The TV will also have its own App Store, where users can find versions of iTunes TV, iTunes Movies, and Apple Music, all designed specifically for the Apple TV.
In addition to Apple TV standards like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, the new TV will also include games like Disney Infinity and Guitar Hero, a Major League Baseball streaming app that lets users watch two games at once, and apps for AirBnB and Zillow, if you really want to hunt for an apartment through your television. A Gilt app will let users shop directly from the comfort of their couches, fulfilling the dreams of many 1960s futurists. A developer beta of the new tvOS will also let developers create their own apps for the TV.
The newer, rosier iPhone 6S
Today’s event was always about introducing new iPhones, and Apple didn’t disappoint. The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus will be built from a new, custom aluminium alloy, and will be available in silver, gold, space grey, and rose gold. As expected, they will have Force Touch, which can detect where you’re pressing on the screen and how hard. The 6S will have the same 4.7 inch display screen as the iPhone 6, and the 6S Plus will retain its 5.5 inch screen. But both will come with new glass displays built of Ion-X, the same display on the Apple Watch Sport. The upgraded iPhones both have a new A9 chip built in, 70 percent faster than the A8 at CPU tasks, and 90 percent faster with graphics. You’ll also see a new 12-megapixel rear iSight camera, capable of shooting video in 4K, and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera with Retina Flash that’s supposedly 3x brighter than regular flash.
But despite all the new storage-heavy features, entry-level iPhones will still start at 16GB. Apple is also maintaining its traditional pricing tiers: $199 to $399 for the 6S, and $299 to $499 for the 6S Plus depending on storage, while on a two-year contract. For those who don’t want to be tied to a contract, Apple is also introducing two new payment options. You can either pay for the 6S in installments of $27 per month, or lease an iPhone for $32 per month, which lets you trade in your phone for a new one every year. Preorders for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus start September 12th, and general availability will follow on September 25th. The latest version of iOS, however, is coming sooner than that: iOS 9 will be released in a little under a week, on September 16th.
'Force Touch' is now thankfully '3D Touch'
As expected, Apple brought 3D Touch to the new iPhones today. The feature is similar to the Watch’s simpler Force Touch, which allows users to clear all notifications with one press. 3D Touch, however, means the iPhone screen can distinguish between multiple levels of pressure. 3D Touch will require users to learn at least two new gestures: "peek" and "pop," which will make app browsing more direct. "Peek" will let users preview information, and "Pop" will take them inside it.
The hope is that 3D Touch will let iPhone users dip in and out of different apps without losing their place or forgetting what they were originally doing. In the Mail app, a light touch will let users preview an email, and a stronger press will let them read it. WeChat, Instagram, and Facebook are among the third-party apps set to integrate 3D Touch into their functions.
Apple has its own tiny version of Vines
Apple is making iPhone images a little more dynamic with the introduction of a new feature called Live Photos. Before and after the camera shutter closes, Live Photos will capture a second and a half of footage, so when you view the image later it plays like a short video clip. HTC tried this with its Zoe feature on the M7 a few years back, but Apple says users will be able to post Live Photos to Facebook. Live Photos will be supported across all Apple products.
Don't forget about the Apple Watch!
The Apple Watch got slightly more useful and better-looking today with the announcement of several new apps and bands. The most notable new bands were designed by luxury brand Hermès, whose three custom brown leather straps include a double-wrapped band that fits with a custom, slightly elongated watch face.
Also announced were several new pastel-colored bands for the Apple Watch Sport, and a red band created in collaboration with Bono’s HIV/AIDS charity Product Red. The aluminum Sport will be offered in gold, rose gold, and anodized aluminum finishes. New native apps for the Watch include Facebook Messenger and GoPro, plus a medical app called Airstrip that lets users measure their vitals in real time. And the Watch’s latest operating software, Watch OS 2, will launch on September 16th.
Today’s Apple event neatly wrapped up a lot of loose ends — we finally have the upgraded Apple TV that we’ve been expecting since 2011, the new iPhones came with the requisite spec updates and some cool new features, and if you’ve been dreaming of a gigantic iPad, well you’ve got that too. We’re still waiting for iOS 9 and Watch OS 2, both of which are slated to be released on September 16th, but if you’re waiting to upgrade your Mac to El Capitan, you’re going to have to hold on until September 30th.
Oh, and if you heard some rumors about a big-name musical guest possibly releasing a new album around the event? That didn't happen. The only musical appearance was by One Republic, which used the event to apologize for getting so much play at Whole Foods stores.
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