While Apple didn’t stream this event like they did with WWDC earlier this year (really Apple???) there was some nice coverage from a number of the big tech blogs.
Prior to the event, the leaks were flowing so unfortunately there was very little in the way of surprises to be had, only two in fact, one of which was interesting and the other which was possibly really bad for those wanting Apple’s more expensive new phone offering.
The event started off with an overview of iOS7, which went on for a bit longer than it needed to given that there was really nothing new to present that we hadn’t already seen at WWDC earlier this year. Other than a previously unannounced September 18th release date, iOS 7 will have the same unfortunate color scheme and hideous looking icons we saw a few months back. The best news was that anyone who purchases a new iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad or iPad mini from now on (retroactive to September 1st) will get the iPhoto, Movie and the iWork suite (Keynote, Pages and Numbers) for FREE.
There was also a demo of ChAIR’s upcoming title Infinity Blade III, which will launch the day the new phones are released.
Then we got into the first, cheaper and more colorful of the two new iPhone models, the iPhone 5C.
This less expensive iPhone is “unapologetically plastic” with a colorful plastic shell, containing a steel reinforced skeleton that acts as the antenna. Aside from the build materials, the 5C carries pretty much the same specs as the iPhone 5 (now discontinued) but at a cheaper price point. It has the same A6 processor, 4-Inch Retina display, 8MP iSight camera and even more LTE bands than its predecessor.
It comes in 5 colors, white, red, yellow, blue and green and there is an optional first-party silicone shell case available for $29 in a variety of colors to personalize your phone (and make it look like a connect-4 game). It will be available in two sizes a 16 GB version for $99 or 32 GB for $199, both of which require a 2-year contract. It can be pre-ordered starting Friday September 13, and available for purchase starting on Friday September 20th.
The iPhone 5S gets a new 64-bit A7 processor which Apple claims will make the iPhone 5S the first smartphone with a 64-bit operating system. It will be up to 2x faster than the iPhone 5 in terms of CPU performance and support both 64-bit and 32-bit software, so all existing apps should be backwards compatible. Though the phone features the same display as the previous iPhone 5, the A7 chip affords the 5S some big graphical improvements that are up to 2X faster than the iPhone 5 and 56x the performance of the original iPhone
Along-side the A7 chip is the new M7 Motion co-processor chip. It continuously measures motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass and enables a whole new generation of health and fitness apps, which Apple illustrated with a new Nike fitness app. As someone who’s used battery-hungry fitness apps on my iPhone before, this is huge. Not having these apps draw power from the A7 chip will mean huge battery savings.
Embedded within the home button is Apple’s new Touch ID sensor, which can detect your fingerprint from any finger in any orientation and can be used for both unlocking the device and making App Store purchases. All fingerprint data is encrypted and locked within the A7 chip. It is never directly accessible via software, and is not stored on Apple’s servers and never backed up to iCloud. Apple reported that as many as half of iPhone users don’t lock their devices so this will certainly help make it easier to do so. I lock mine, but if I were not forced to in order to be able to access my work email from my phone, I’d probably fall into that lazy category as well.
Finally the biggest improvements come with the camera. The rear camera offers 1080p video recording and is still an 8MP iSight camera. Its larger f/2.2 aperture has a 15% larger active sensor area and larger 1.5 micron pixels which will help to produce better photos. Via the new camera app, “For the first time, it’s doing autofocus matrix metering with 15 focus zones. When you do take a picture, it automatically finds the sharpest of multiple pictures”. The flash now contains two LEDs, one white, one amber and these are automatically blended to match the lighting in the room, for the best possible looking skin tones and color. The 5S camera also does auto-image stabilization, combining the sharpest parts of each image to virtually eliminate blur.
The demo photos they showed were rather impressive. There is also a new burst mode which takes up to 10 frames per second, which is great for action shots or kids that just wont sit still, so you can choose the best one later. Finally video is recorded at 120 fps, allowing for slow-motion video (which will undoubtedly be way over used). The slow-motion pieces can actually be selected after the video has already been shot and you and go in an out of slo-mo at will.
The iPhone 5S will come in three colors (not the rumored four), white/silver, white/gold and a black color they are calling “space gray”. It will be available in the same three capacities and prices as the iPhone 5 was last year: 16GB for $199, 32GB for $299 and 64GB for $399. It too has its own Apple-made case for $39, but I suspect any iPhone 5 case that doesn’t cover the home button should work just fine as long as the cutout for the flash on the back is big enough. The 5S will be available for purchase at Apple Stores starting Friday, September 20th.
However, unlike the 5C, the 5S is not preorder-able, which frankly I think is a stupid move by Apple (and the ‘bad’ surprise I mentioned earlier). What I can only guess is a PR move to create a media spectacle of the iconic line people at Apple stores waiting eagerly to buy their new iPhones, in this day a lack of pre-orders is nonsense. I was able to pre-order my last iPhone, so what’s changed? With three possible carriers, three capacities and three colors to choose from, what are the odds that they’ll have the phone that I want in stock even if I do line up. A really bad decision by Apple and one I hope they remedy before 5C pre-orders kick off on September 13th.
While the iPhone 5 is gone, the iPhone 4S is sticking around in only an 8GB model as Apple’s free offering with a 2-year contract, meaning that developers will have to support the 3.5 inch screen for another year. For a full comparison of all three models, check out this page on Apple’s website.
And that about rounds things up….
Unfortunately is seems that the death of Steve Jobs meant the end of surprises and the big “one More Thing” reveal from Apple that made the events so interesting. It also seems that Apple has pretty much given up on trying to extend the battery life of their mobile devices, happy with just maintaining the current abysmal levels (with real-world use). Today’s reveals give us a tease of what to expect on the new iPad line next month. You can be sure that the A7 chip as well as Touch ID will be among the features on the next full-size iPad (if not the mini as well).