Apple held its “Time Flies” event yesterday (September 15, 2020), which was a tightly-paced one-hour video presentation featuring new Apple Watches, new services, and new iPads. In this post, we’ll take a detailed look at each of the announcements and their impact on Apple fans.
As expected, Apple did not announce any new Mac or iPhone products. The company did announce that four of the new operating system releases – iOS 14, iPadOS 14, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7 – are available for download on September 16.
The Big Surprise: Apple One
To me, the biggest surprise of the event wasn’t the hardware or even the announcement of a new Fitness+ service, but the bundling of existing and new Apple services into a “one price for everything” package called Apple One (stylized as One). Available later this fall, Apple One comes in three different flavors – Individual, Family, and Premier.
As an example of what the bundle can provide, my wife and I share a 2TB iCloud plan, for which I pay $9.95 a month. Apple Music costs me another $9.95 per month, Apple TV+ will tack on another $4.99 a month once my one-year free trial is over with. We could replace this with the Family plan, but it only offers 200GB of iCloud storage. For just about $5 more per month, we’ll also be able to get Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and a new service – Apple Fitness+. In our case, we’ll pay slightly more, but we’ll add three new services that we may not use.
Apple One particularly benefits those people who don’t use a lot of iCloud storage. In our case, we’ll either stay with what we currently have for about $25 per month, or bump ourselves into the Apple One Premier plan.
Before I dive into the new Apple Watches, let’s talk about the new service for those who are serious about fitness – Apple Fitness+. This service is designed to work with the Apple Watch for fitness tracking, but adds personalized studio workouts. To quote the Apple press release,
Everyone from beginners to committed exercisers can access studio-style workouts delivered by inspiring world-class trainers and underscored by motivating music from renowned artists, making it easier and more rewarding for customers to exercise, whenever and wherever they like.Apple Newsroom
Apple Fitness+ costs $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year, so for those who are really into their fitness and who also subscribe to other Apple services will find the Apple One bundle to be a true bargain.
Apple Fitness+ covers most of the most popular workout types: Treadmill, Cycling, Rowing, High-Intensity Impact Training, Strength, Yoga, Dance, Core, and Mindful Cooldown. The trainers have picked music (from Apple Music, of course!) to accompany the workouts, and new workouts will be delivered each week with different lengths and music genres.
What I find to be a positive aspect of Fitness+ is that it works with any fitness equipment, so you don’t need to be concerned about purchasing a specific brand or model of device. There are also workouts designed for absolute beginners who might want to try out a new type of fitness genre.
Apple Watch Series 6
No Apple event is complete without new hardware announcements, and those of us who write about Apple had a very good feeling that the “Time Flies” tagline (Apple also teased us with “It’s About Time”) meant that the Apple Watch would be front and center in the presentation. Apple didn’t disappoint, with the announcement of the Apple Watch Series 6 being the first big announcement of the day.
Apple has made health and fitness a selling point of the Apple Watch since Day One, and the Apple Watch Series 6 adds a new Blood Oxygen Sensor (SpO2) to the already impressive Watch line. With this year’s focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, one indicator of the virus has been low SpO2 levels. The blood oxygen sensor works in tandem with a new Blood Oxygen app, and can take a reading in just 15 seconds. Apple is doing a study in coordination with the Seattle Flu Study at the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine and faculty from the University of Washington School of Medicine to attempt to find a way to use devices like the Apple Watch as an early warning detector for flu and COVID-19 like viruses.
Not only can users see what their SpO2 level on-demand, but the device will also take readings throughout the day. The Blood Oxygen app data is stored in the Health app, so users can see how health conditions, disease, fitness, and other factors affect SpO2 over time.
The SpO2 sensor uses a cluster of green, red and infrared LEDs along with the usual photodiodes on the back of the Watch to measure light reflected back from blood, then uses a custom algorithm to determine SpO2 levels between 70 and 100 percent.
Another new feature of the Apple Watch Series 6 is an always-on altimeter. It uses a new, more efficient barometric altimeter, nearby Wi-Fi networks and GPS to track elevation changes of as little as one foot. While this will be great for hikers, it should also have the added benefit of actually tracking those frequent trips up and down stairs that are ignored by the present Apple Watches.
Pricing begins at $399 for a GPS-only model, with the GPS+Cellular version starting at $499. The new Series 6 is available this Friday.
Apple Watch SE
In the iPhone world, “SE” indicates a product that has many of the features of the top-of-the-line models, but comes in at a lower price point. Apple introduced the Apple Watch SE, which is a “middle of the line” model – the Apple Watch Series 3 is still available as a $199 entry Watch, the Apple Watch Series 6 is the luxury model with all the bells and whistles, and the Apple Watch SE prices start at $279 for the GPS-only model and top out at $329 for the GPS+Cellular version.
For that price, you’d think that the Apple Watch SE is somewhat lacking in features, but right off the bat, it will run watchOS 7 and support many of the same features of the Series 6: the always-on altimeter, fall detection, Emergency SOS, international emergency calling, and the Noise app.
The Apple Watch SE may attract a larger group of customers to the fitness device as it’s much more capable than the low-end Apple Watch Series 3 and not that much more expensive. For parents who would like to stay in touch with their children 24/7, the $329 cellular version and the watchOS 7 Family Setup capability make it possible to give the kids a device they can wear everywhere and communicate with the folks and friends.
The Apple Watch is already the best-selling watch in the world; with the SE, Apple is really going to grab a lot more of the market.
By the way…
Apple made an interesting announcement yesterday, stating that for environmental reasons and the fact that most consumers have a pile of AC adapters, they won’t be including the AC adapter with the new Watches.
In case you thought the event was “all about Watches”, the iPad also received some love. Ten years after the first iPad was released, the eighth generation of iPad was announced. While it still has the same 10.2-inch Retina display as its predecessor, the 8th-generation iPad is much more powerful.
An A12 Bionic chip brings the Neural Engine for machine learning to the low-end iPad for the first time, making the device much more capable. That chip provides 40 percent faster CPU performance and twice the graphics capability of the previous version. Apple noted during the event that the new iPad is twice as fast as the top-selling Windows laptop (an HP model), up to three times faster than the best-selling Android tablet, and up to six times faster than the top-selling Chromebook.
I think Apple just threw down the gauntlet to the education market, with a device that outperforms everything else, supports Apple Pencil and keyboards, has all-day battery life, Touch ID for security, and yet starts at $299 per unit for educational purchasers. Add to that the more than one million apps available for iPad, and it should be hard for educators to justify purchasing anything else for student use.
The middle of the iPad line also received attention in the form of an all-new design. The display mimics the top-of-the-line iPad Pro in that it has a very thin bezel, but instead of using Face ID for authentication, it uses an innovative Touch ID button built into the power button.
Available in five colors, including green and blue for the first time, the new iPad Air’s 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display sports 3.8 million pixels, P3 wide color support, True Tone, and an anti-reflective coating. As you’d expect, the new Air works with the “floating” Magic Keyboard with its built-in trackpad.
Sure, it looks great, but what’s under the hood? It’s the most advanced chip that Apple makes, the A14 Bionic. This System in Package uses a 5-nanometer process technology to pack in 11.8 billion transistors, making the chip more powerful and power-efficient than ever before. The chip has a 6-core CPU and 4-core GPU, as well as a new 16-core Neural Engine that can perform up to 11 trillion operations per second.
The iPad Air has a 7MP front-facing FaceTime HD camera but now has the same 12MP rear camera as the iPad Pro. That enables 4K video capture…and those big video files can be moved to your Mac quickly as the iPad Air now uses a USB-C port. It’s obvious that Apple is beginning to move the product line to all USB-C; I’m hopeful that the soon-to-arrive iPhone 12 will use USB-C for data transfer and power.
The new iPad Air won’t arrive until October and will start at $599 for the Wi-Fi version and $729 for the Cellular model. It’s available in both 64GB and 256GB models,
With another Apple Event behind us, the Apple Watch and low- and mid-range iPad lines are good for another year. The next big announcements from Apple should come next month, with the new iPhone 12 being introduced to the public. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to also hear about the first Mac(s) outfitted with Apple Silicon.
Apple started off the fall season with a bang, and even better things are on the horizon.