The tech world waits with bated breath as Apple launches new products. Today was no different. As the tech giant unveiled the latest version of its hardware from the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, the biggest buzz was around the new Apple Watch and its focus on health. Here are some highlights.

Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch has been totally “redesigned and re-engineered,” according to Apple COO Jeff Williams.

The screen is 30% larger, and 4mm thinner, meaning “there’s actually less volume than in series three.” Apple also pitched a new watch face, and widgets which allow the watch to show more detail. The speaker is 50% louder. The digital crown (the thing you use to scroll, on the right of the watch), has haptic feedback, meaning that it clicks as you scroll. Using the new accelerometer and gyroscope, the watch will be able to detect an individual’s fall, as well, and will offer options for calling emergency services if it detects signs of a fall - it’s like LifeAlert, in your watch.  The battery on this watch lasts “all day”, according to Apple.

The watch also offers a suite of new cardio minded health apps, all FDA approved, keeping in line with the three cores of the Apple Watch: connectivity, fitness and health.

The new watches start at $399 for a model with GPS, and $499 with cellular. The Series 3 watches will drop to $279.

The watch is available for order starting this Friday, September 14, to be shipped out the following Friday, September 21.

New iPhones

Today, Apple released the iPhone XS (pronounced ten-S, or maybe tennis(?)).

The phone is available in two sizes. The larger of the two, the iPhone XS Max, has a 6.5” display, making it about the same size as the iPhone 8 Plus, except with an extra inch of display, since the screen is all display now. The phone is more waterproof, and is covered with a new glass - “the most durable ever.” The stereo sound has improved. The battery life has improved, too. For the XS, it’ll last 30 minutes longer than the iPhone X. For the XS Max, it’ll last up to an hour and a half longer.

There were a lot of tech updates, but for the more casual observer or reader, two things you need to know: the phones are available with up to 512GB of storage, and apps can launch up to 30% faster.

The iPhone camera has improved, too. According to Phil Schiller, SVP of marketing at Apple, we have entered, or Apple has entered “a new era of photography.” There are lots of different technical updates, but it boils down to couple things for the user: higher quality pictures with different light exposures, adjusting the depth of field on an image after taking picture, instead of before, higher-quality low-light photos, and recording stereo sound.

And Apple released another iPhone - iPhone XR. The phone has a 6.1” display. It has a battery that’s an hour and half longer than the iPhone 8 Plus. It saves money by having a less impressive display than the other two (which use OLED), but Schiller is careful to mention that it’s “the most advanced LCD ever in a smartphone.” It also cuts costs by having a less extensive rear camera apparatus - there’s just one.

These cost saving measures make a difference: the iPhone XS starts at $999 for 64GB, the XS Max starts at $1099 for 64GB, the XR starts at $749 for the same size.

This drops the price on the iPhone 7 to $449, and on the iPhone 8 to $599.

The first two are available for order this Friday, to be shipped on September 21, 2018. The XR won’t be available to order until October 19, and will begin shipping out on October 26.

There were other changes to other products, too, and a few other announcements. They aren’t important in comparison to these.

What Does it Mean? 

Earlier this year, as Apple surpassed a $1T valuation it was argued that the company might soon pivot by moving beyond just user experience to focusing on utility - you use your Apple products to enhance your lived experience, not to be pulled out of it. That becomes a push to move towards selling products like the Apple Watches, Airpods and the Homepod over the the iPhones.

Today's releases tell us that if that pivot is coming, it's not in the immediate future. With their cores of connectivity, fitness and health, and the features they've rolled out, Apple would seem to be taking aim pretty directly at Fitbit, and other fitness and health-based wearable tech. Indeed, today, pretty much as soon as Apple started talking, Fitbit shares started dropping. But Apple investors didn't seem that excited either. While the stock was jittery, falling ahead of the launch it closed the day in red.

Image: FactSet

Apple's updates to the iPhone don't seem to suggest that the company is looking to take its users eyes of the phone anytime soon either. For the most part, this is an updated version of existing iPhones, with better and faster features, augmented reality incorporating apps, improved cameras and improved and enlarged displays. These phones are also some of the most expensive the company has offered.

So, at least for now, Apple would appear to be doubling down on its ability to make excellent hardware, though not to fundamentally transform the user experience.

 

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