None of the headphone jack, all of the camera bump
Not too long ago, part of the appeal of an Apple Special Event was the surprise. What were we about to see on stage? Could there possibly be a new Mac? I hear they’re announcing an iPhone Mini. Was that blurry elevator shot real, or was it an elaborate fake?
Now a days, blurry elevator shots have been replaced by crystal clear snaps, fresh off the assembly line. Hey, did you know they’re getting rid of the 1/8-inch headphone jack? Did you see they’re moving the antenna bands? Hey, I think the camera bump is actually going to be bigger this year. Ugh. We know more about what Apple will be unveiling at September 7th than we had before any special event in recent memory, but we don’t know anything. What we do know, though, is that – as always – there’s a lot of FUD we’ve got to wade through.
Let’s wade through it together, shall we? Here’s what you can realistically expect at next Thursday’s event.
1) Apple’s had the iPhone on a tick-tock schedule for many years now. One year, there’s the tick: a major, significant redesign, both on the inside and the out – and then the next year, there’s the tock: essentially identical to the last year’s design, but with some new tricks on the inside. The iPhone 5. The iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6. Last year’s iPhone 6s.
This year, however, it looks like Apple is switching things up. While it’s true that Apple will be releasing a new iPhone, and that it almost certainly will be marketed as the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, the new iPhones will be dead ringers for last year’s models. Sure, they’ll be a bit thinner, and they’ll lose the iPhone 6’s infamous antenna bands, but the design language of this year’s iPhones will be that of iteration, not innovation, a markedly different approach.
That doesn’t mean that there won’t be significant changes inside. At this point, it’s predictable. Faster processor. More RAM. Better graphics. Then there are the more substantial changes. Hope you weren’t too attached to that headphone jack, because the rumors are true: the iPhone 7 will be kicking that to the curb. I personally have yet to hear what I consider to be valid justification for taking away a feature that millions of iPhone users very likely use every single day, and it’ll be interesting to see if Apple spitballs some justification out there. The iPhone 7’s primary audio input method will likely be its Lighting port, though that’ll make things a bit tougher for people who listen to music while charging their phone, especially if they don’t have a headphone jack-to-lightning adapter with them.
Apple taketh, but they also giveth – next year’s iPhone will be the first to be rated as water resistant. Anecdotally, the iPhone 6s took the first steps towards water resistance, but you might not have known that – Apple has never promised that in advertising, and nor is it rated as such. But this year, Apple is committed, and marketing will reflect that. Just don’t expect to take your iPhone swimming with you every day: water resistance is very different than being rated as water proof. It also looks like the new iPhone will come in at least one new color – a glossy black, similar in appearance to the Space Black Apple Watch option. Apple may also be replacing Space Gray with a darker, but not glossy, Space Black option.
2) There’s one new iPhone 7 addition I’ve yet to mention, and this one is big enough to warrant its own bullet point. As smartphone cameras improved over the years, they began to cannibalize and, eventually, nearly annihilate the point and shoot market. They say the best camera is the one you have on you, and the iPhone’s camera has for quite some time been a damn good point and shoot. This year, though, Apple is taking things one step further by taking a small step outside the point and shoot category and into the professional camera one with the introduction of a dual-lens camera system on the iPhone 7 Plus.
This will have a huge impact on the types of photos you can take on your iPhone, and the amount of detail you’ll be able to capture. One of the biggest benefits that it’ll provide is the ability to take in much more light, which will greatly benefit photos taken in low light. The second lens will also give the iPhone some degree of optical zoom, for taking better shots from a distance. All previous iPhones utilized digital zoom, a method that results in blurry and pixelated photos. Zoomed in photos on the iPhone 7 Plus will be as crisp and clear as photos taken without zoom, until you go past that 3x zoom barrier.
Unfortunately, the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 will not be receiving this new feature, much to the dismay of many podcasters I listen to. I can totally understand the frustration – there’s been almost nothing but screen size separating the iPhone and the iPhone Plus models, other than optical image stabilization. Given that the iPhone 7 Plus will also be the only model to get 3GB of RAM (the 4.7-inch will have to make due with 2GB), this will be the first lineup where the bigger your phone, the better your phone really is true. If you want the best Apple has to offer, you better make peace with that 5.5-inch screen size. Bummer.
3) It’s been two years since we were first introduced to the Apple Watch, and about a year and a half since we could actually put one on our wrist. That’s a fairly long life cycle for a first generation Apple product, especially one with as many obvious areas of improvement as theWatch. Expect Apple to take a second crack at the difficult nut that is the smartwatch category with the Apple Watch 2 or whatever the decide to call it (personally, I hope they ditch the numbers).
Granted, there won’t be any giant change here, either – the next Apple Watch will be outwardly very, very similar to the original. The Apple Watch 2 may be ever so slightly thinner than the original, but not thin enough to break compatibility with existing bands – that is to say, not much thinner at all. It’ll have a faster processor, something that owners of the original will be sure glad to hear, as well as a bigger battery, though the original 42mm was really no slouch in battery life.
The biggest change in functionality may very well be the inclusion of a built in GPS chip. One of the biggest pain points of the original Apple Watch is its reliance on the iPhone for nearly everything. While the Watch 2 still won’t be so smart without the iPhone around, it will at least be able to track your location, which should make leaving your iPhone at home while heading out on that rainy day run a less bitter pill to swallow.
For those of you who will be sticking with their original model, expect Apple to release about a kajillion new watchbands that will work on both. This seems to be a bit of a trend – new watch bands for each new season of the calendar year. I’ve got enough watchbands to last me a lifetime at this point, but who knows, maybe Apple will finally relent and let me purchase that sweet United States Apple Watch band they sold at the Olympic Village this year. I’d pay some dough to rock that on my wrist.
4) Both the iPhone 7 and the Apple Watch 2 will usher in new versions of their respective operating systems, this year numbered iOS 10 and watchOS 3. Both are fairly substantial upgrades to last year’s versions, though more so on the watchOS side of things, where user interface paradigms have been rethought.
iMessage as both a service and an application has seen the biggest and most obvious improvement this year, learning some pretty cool new tricks hook more people into Apple’s ecosystem than ever before. From the sending and downloading new stickers (similar concept as on Facebook Messenger) to attaching slightly obnoxious animated scenes that play out when a message is received, to iMessage Applications, iMessage is taking a huge step into becoming a platform of its own.
iMessage Applications are by far the most interesting new additions to me. Every app you download from the new iMessage App Store will enhance iMessage in substantial ways. Download Coinbase and send your friend a buck without leaving iMessage; find and send eCards with Jib Jab iMessage application; call an Uber without leaving iMessage. These are just a few examples that will likely be possible when their respective applications launch on iMessage Applications.
Oh, and now you can send and receive Digital Touch messages on your iPhone and iPad, too. Get ready to send your significant other your heartbeat all. Over. Again.
5) No, there won’t be new Macs. Yes, I’m serious. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
This actually poses a pretty good question – when will we get new Macs? Surely, Apple won’t be ignoring the Mac lineup for the rest of the year. It has to be a matter of when, not if. While I’m not sure that the iPad will get any love until Spring, it seems to me like we’re due for an update on macOS Sierra, new iMacs, new MacBook Airs, and – most desperately – new MacBook Pros.
That’s not even mentioning the hole in Apple’s professional desktop lineup, including a Mac Pro that hasn’t seen an update in almost 3 full years and a now discontinued non-Retina display. It certainly seems like there’s room to finagle a second, Mac-focused event in October. This used to be fairly commonplace for Apple, but modern Apple hasn’t had a Mac focused event in quite some time, so there’s also a possibility that perhaps all of these will be announced and released without an event, too. Still, considering how impressive the new MacBook Pro is sounding, that seems like it would be a shame.