Every year it feels like Apple’s big iPhone event offers fewer and fewer surprises. This year was no different. Once again, we got three new phones and a new Apple Watch. But we also got some new and interesting details about the company’s future.
The new iPhones, as we expected, are the iPhone 11 as well as the iPhone 11 Pro in two different sizes. They all have some fancy new wide-angle cameras. The new Apple Watch looks exactly like the old one, but now it has an always-on screen. There’s also a cheap new iPad that looks slightly better than the old ones. Oh, and we learned how much Apple’s new streaming video and video game services will cost. (It’s not much!)
That’s all you really need to know. What’s perhaps most notable about the iPhone event, however, is what Apple didn’t announce. Quite a few rumors didn’t come true, leaving many to think that Apple is holding out for a splashier iPhone update in 2020, when the company is supposed to introduce 5G technology to its devices. This year’s stuff still looks neat, though.
Replacing the iPhone XR is the iPhone 11. Like the XR, it has an anodized aluminum body and a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina LCD. Flip the device over, however, and you’ll notice a brand new dual-camera system that features a 12MP Ultra Wide camera in addition to the regular 12MP Wide Camera. This means the iPhone 11 now features a 2X optical zoom out. (Although the module has a similar-looking stack of two cameras as the iPhone XS, there’s no telephoto camera, so the iPhone 11 camera does not offer optical zoom in.) There’s also a brighter new True Tone flash in the square-shaped camera module.
The upgraded camera system also takes advantage of the new, more powerful A13 Bionic processor. Apple says it has 20 percent better performance than the A12 chip in terms of processing power, graphics, and neural processing. This enables a new feature called Deep Fusion photo processing that’s supposed to offer ultra-sharp images as well as a new Night Mode that looks like a strong competitor to the Google Pixel’s Night Sight. Apple also improved its Smart HDR feature to offer more vivid colors. Naturally, the iPhone 11 comes with Face ID, which Apple says is faster and works from more angles. The iPhone 11 also has the new ultra-wideband U1 chip that improves the device’s spatial awareness. It features up to 17 hours of battery life and is also capable of fast-charging, although you have to buy a special adapter separately.
The iPhone 11 will come in six colors: black, green, yellow, purple, red, and white. Capacity options include 64Gb, 128GB, and 256GB. Prices start at $700. Pre-orders start on September 13, and the phone starts shipping on September 20.
iPhone 11 Pro
This is the big money item, and to the surprise of many, it is also green. The iPhone 11 Pro replaces the iPhone XS in the lineup. Like the iPhone XS, the iPhone 11 Pro features a stainless steel body and a 5.8-inch OLED display. Apple says the glass is its most durable yet, and the back of the phone now features a matte finish.
Similar to the iPhone 11, the back of the phone also features an even bigger, square-shaped camera bump with a completely new, Ultra Wide camera. Together, the three 12-MP cameras offer up to 4X optical zoom with a focal length from 13- to 52-millimeters. You can now zoom in and out with an iPhone, in other words, which is neat.
But aside from the more advanced camera system and slightly different design, the iPhone 11 Pro offers a lot of the same specs as the iPhone 11. It also has the A13 Bionic chip and all the powerful processing power that comes along with it. All the while, Apple says it’s managed to make the iPhone 11 Pro battery last four hours longer than that of the iPhone XS. Like the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro can do fast-charging. Apple is even including the fast-charge adapter in the box.
The new flagship iPhone 11 Pro will be available for pre-order on September 13 and will be available September 20. It will come in space grey, silver, a new shade of gold, and a very new midnight green color. Storage options are the same 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB as last year’s model. The iPhone 11 starts at $1,000.
Meanwhile, the iPhone 11 Max is just the bigger version of the iPhone 11. The specs are virtually identical, except the iPhone 11 Max has a 6.5-inch screen and offers an additional hour of battery life. The iPhone 11 Max starts at $1,100
Apple Watch Series 5
It looks like the Apple Watch Series 5 features exactly two new hardware upgrades: an always-on Retina display and a built-in compass. The screen uses a new low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) OLED display that refreshes dynamically anywhere between 1Hz and 60Hz. When your wrist is down, it dims to save battery but leaves key features like the watch hands visible. Apple also says that it still has the same 18-hour battery life as the Series 4 watch.
The appeal offered by the new compass is a bit more enigmatic for now. There’s a new compass app in the watch, which is useful if you’re hiking in the wilderness or extremely bad at navigating the mall. Apple made a point of saying that the compass would be available to app developers, so we’re sure to see all kinds of new features popping up after Watch OS 6 launches this fall. And honestly, the vast majority of new features coming to the Apple Watch Series 5 will involve software.
With the Series 5, there are also some fresh design options, including the re-introduction of the ceramic case and a new titanium case, both of which comprise the new Apple Watch Edition line. Apple also announced a new program called Apple Studio that lets you mix and match your case and band designs, instead of settling for whatever plain band used to come with your specific case and color.
The Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $400 for the aluminum version. The titanium version starts at $800, and the ceramic one starts at $1,300. Pre-orders start today, and the new watches will be available on September 20.
New Cheap iPad
Apple’s cheap iPad is finally getting a facelift. The sixth-generation 9.7-inch model is being replaced by a redesigned model with a 10.2-inch Retina display. Apple also added a Smart Connector so the entry-level model now works with a wider range of keyboards and accessories. The upcoming iPad OS will also bring lots of new features, like the ability to plug-in external storage and pair with PlayStation controllers.
While Apple says the new iPad is twice as fast as an unnamed “top-selling Windows PC,” the new device is actually getting some older hardware. The A10 Fusion chip inside of it, for instance, dates back to the release of the iPhone 7 in 2016. The single 8MP camera on the new iPad is nothing special, and there is only Touch ID, so there’s no Face ID like on the iPad Pro.
On the bright side, the cheap iPad is still cheap, starting at $330 for the wifi model and starting at $460 for the cellular model. Students and educators can get it for $300 and up. The new iPad will be available September 30.
We didn’t get a ton of new information about Apple Arcade, the company’s new gaming platform. We saw an entertaining update to the classic Frogger as well as two all-new titles called Sayonara Wild Hearts and Shinsekai Into the Depths. Apple also showed how Arcade would exist as a new tab in the App Store.
The big piece of info was Apple Arcade’s price: $5 a month with a one-month free trial. That’s pretty cheap for access to over 100 games only available on Apple devices. The service will launch on September 19.
Once again, we’d heard a lot about Apple TV+, and the company didn’t show up with a lot of new information about the service. We did see a trailer for the new Jason Momoa show See, which is a post-apocalyptic drama about humans who have lost the ability to see. Apparently, there are some babies born on this show who can see, and there’s a lot of drama about whether to protect them or kill them.
The big announce: Apple TV+ will cost $5 a month as well. If you buy a new Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone, you get a year of Apple TV+ for free, which doesn’t sound at all bad, especially compared to getting a free U2 record you don’t want.
Did Apple reinvent the iPhone? Not even close. Is Apple still going to sell a lot of iPhones? Remains to be seen.