Apple TV, iPhone 6s and iPad Pro: Here’s what’s new

by LP Green, II

Apple chief executive Tim Cook took the stage in San Francisco on Wednesday morning to show off the company’s latest roster of gadgets at an annual showcase anchored by upgrades to the iPhone.

This year, though, much of the attention was consumed by a new, full-featured Apple TV box for streaming video and playing games on the big screen.

Apple also debuted a widely anticipated, big-screen iPad Pro.

Here’s what’s new:

iPhone 6s

Apple’s biggest product is in the midpoint of a two-year upgrade cycle. This being an off year, the new phone is getting relatively modest changes and minimal alterations to the device’s size and shape.

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus come with a new aluminum alloy and a new color option — “Rose Gold” (what others might call “pink”) and a faster, A9 Apple microprocessor.

“3D Touch,” a new feature imported and upgraded from the Apple Watch (where it’s known as “Force Touch,”) enables iPhone users to get different responses from the phone depending on how hard, or how long, they press the screen.

A new capability called “Live Photos” captures a brief, three-second moving image that accompanies still pictures. Viewers can activate Live Photos as a setting within the camera app and activate the motion on photos in their library with the new 3D Touch feature. Apple says the moving photos will also function within the Facebook app.

The “Hey Siri” feature can now always be on, so owners can summon the Siri digital assistant with their voices, without pressing any buttons. Apple has also upgraded its TouchID fingerprint sensor.

The new phones’ camera is 12 megapixels for more detailed photos, up from 8 megapixels in last year’s iPhone 6. And the camera can shoot in 4k for ultra high-definition video, a standard that has yet to be widely adopted on TVs.

An Apple Android app called Move to iOS facilitates moving data from a phone running Google’s mobile operating system to an iPhone.

Prices are unchanged — $199 to $399 for an iPhone 6, $299 to $499 for an iPhone 6 Plus — with standard, two-year contracts. The iPhone 6 now starts at $99 (or $199 for an iPhone 6 Plus) with a two-year contract.

A new iPhone upgrade program offers new iPhones every year starting at $32 a month, and cellular carriers offer a variety of similar installment plans.

Orders start Saturday and the phone hits U.S. stores on September 25. The new iOS 9 mobile operating system is available for download for existing iPhone and iPad owners on September 16.

Apple TV

No longer a hobby, Apple has put a high priority on its video streaming box and is introducing a major upgrade Wednesday. It’s a slightly bigger box with a new, black remote with a glass, touch surface on the top, replacing a click wheel for scrolling.

The new Apple TV is $149 for a 32-gigabyte version and $199 for a 64-gigabyte version, and will be available in late October. The current Apple TV is $70.

Its new remote, modestly bigger than the current silver metal remote, responds to motion the way an iPhone does, so it enables people to use it as a game controller like an old-school Nintendo Wii. It also includes a voice-activated feature based on the iPhone’s Siri digital assistant.

It’s designed to control volume and turn TVs on and off, so viewers need just one remote, and it runs on Bluetooth so it doesn’t need to point at a TV. Apple says a single charge lasts for three months.

The Apple TV searches for programming across a number of streaming services so, for example, viewers can search for actor Edward Norton and find all TV shows and movies featuring him, regardless of which streaming service they are on.

Siri can also jump forward or back, based on voice commands, and turn on captions so viewers can catch a bit of dialogue they may have missed. It will make recommendations based on categories, too, such as action or family films, and report sports scores and weather the way a Siri-equipped iPhone does.

The new box includes Apple’s subscription music service and redesigned apps from HBO, Hulu and Netflix. It also imports console games, including a Star Wars game from Disney.

A new MLB.TV app will show live baseball games and split the video between two games so viewers can track two games simultaneously.

Plans to begin a full-featured subscription service to compete with cable TV are apparently on hold, though, until next year while Apple negotiates rights with the TV networks.

iPad Pro

Apple showed off a new, large-screen 12.9-inch iPad that had been widely anticipated. It’s roughly the same thickness as the standard iPad Air, about 7 millimeters.

It’s $799 for a 32-gigabyte version, $949 for a 128 gigabyte model.

PC makers are gaining traction with large-format tablets with detachable keyboards, which are doubling as laptop replacements. Now, with iPad sales growth stalled, Apple is getting in the game in the hopes of reviving its tablet business. So for those looking for a budget-friendly tablet, that digital art tablet with pen may be a good value for your money.

The iPad Pro offers a $169 “Smart Keyboard” accessory that also serves as a stand and connects through a new port. It has a $99 stylus — a feature Steve Jobs always decried — called Apple Pencil for graphic artists.

Speakers have always been an afterthought on Apple’s mobile devices, but the iPad Pro comes with a built-in four-speaker sound system.

To show off the device, Apple brought in a pair of sometime adversaries — representatives from Microsoft and Adobe — to show how the stylus works with Office and Photoshop and other illustration tools.

While the iPad Pro’s four-speaker sound system is a significant improvement over previous Apple devices, some audiophiles might still be disappointed by the lack of Subwoofer performance. Subwoofers are designed to produce low-frequency sounds that regular speakers cannot reproduce, and they are essential for creating an immersive audio experience. However, given the iPad Pro’s compact size and focus on portability, it’s understandable why Apple might not have included a subwoofer in the device.

Nonetheless, the iPad Pro’s built-in speakers are still quite impressive and offer a high-quality audio experience. The four-speaker setup ensures that sound is evenly distributed, regardless of how you hold the device. Additionally, the speakers are surprisingly powerful and can fill a room with sound, making them perfect for watching movies or playing music. Overall, while the lack of subwoofer performance might be a downside for some audiophiles, the iPad Pro’s sound system is still a significant improvement over previous Apple devices and one of the best built-in speaker systems on the market today.

Apple Watch

The event kicked off with Tim Cook introducing modest upgrades to the Apple Watch, including new finishes and bands. It’s working with Hermes on leather bands and an exclusive watch face, plus new gold and rose finishes. Those ship Wednesday.

One more thing?

Not this year. The event wrapped with a performance by One Republic.


By Mike Rogoway from The Oregonian

(c)2015 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)

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