We would ordinarily have seen a new iPhone by this point in September, but the world being in the state of confusion that it is, Apple’s behind schedule. It has, however, used a special online event dubbed Time Flies to launch new Apple Watches, iPads, and subscription services.
The Apple Watch Series 6, the new flagship Apple smartwatch, follows last year’s Apple Watch Series 5 and doesn’t change too much from a design perspective. It does, however, add blood oxygen monitoring to the mix thanks to a new health sensor – a reading that’s useful for checking cardiac health, spotting potential heart problems, and generally figuring out how well your body is working.
Apple has engineered a brighter always-on display and an altimeter that works in real-time for the Apple Watch 6, as well as packing faster components inside the casing. There are a bunch of new watch faces as usual, plus new casing colours (including blue and red), bands and watch faces to choose from.
Matching the iPhone SE there’s now also an Apple Watch SE (Special Edition, we presume): a cut-down, more affordable version of the Apple Watch 6. It features a slower processor, but still has many of the same sensors and features (minus blood oxygen and heart rate monitoring), and the display is larger. Apple Watch SE starts at US$279, with the full-fat Apple Watch 6 starting at $399 – both go on sale on Friday.
The watchOS 7 software is launching tomorrow too, bringing extra functionality like sleep tracking and smarter on-screen responses from Siri. The update is rolling back to older smartwatches in the series back to the Apple Watch 3, so these features aren’t exclusive to the new model.
Then there are the new iPads: The entry-level 10.2-inch iPad hits its 8th generation, adding improved performance thanks to an A12 Bionic chip, while leaving the design largely unchanged – so there’s still a home button here and the traditional iPad look. Apple says it should be up to 40 percent faster than the previous model, and as with the previous generation, pricing starts at $329.
The iPad Air 4 – between the entry-level tablet and the iPad Pros – does get a design refresh, shrinking the bezels and removing the home button, as well as applying a flatter look to the edges and adding USB-C. Touch ID is still here, though – it’s built into the power button. The tablet features a completely new Apple chip, the A14 Bionic, making it the fastest Apple tablet or phone yet. It’ll cost you $599 and up.
Again, there’s a software update – iPadOS 14 in this case, with improved handwriting and shape recognition, better text selection, and various other improvements across all of the built-in apps. The software lands tomorrow, the iPad goes on sale on Friday, and the iPad Air goes on sale next month.
Also on the software side, Apple has introduced yet another US$9.99-per-month subscription service, called Fitness Plus. In the style of Peloton or Fitbit Premium, it streams workouts and exercises straight to your Apple devices, putting data from your Apple Watch up on a different screen (like an Apple TV display) where appropriate. It’s launching before the end of the year.
The long-rumoured Apple One subscription package is launching at some point in the near future too, Apple has announced, rolling iCloud, Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple Arcade, Apple News Plus and Apple Fitness Plus together. Prices start at $14.95 per month, though that only includes the music, the video streaming, the games and the cloud storage. Add more services, and the cost goes up.
And so what of the iPhone 12? The general consensus amongst the tipsters and leakers of tech journalism seems to be that there will be four models this year, though they might not all go on sale at the same time due to production delays. Most signs point to an October announcement for the iPhone 12, with shipping starting soon after.