Apple on Wednesday refreshed its iPhone, Watch and AirPods product lines at an online event, as well as introduced a new Ultra watch for activity in challenging environments.
The Apple Watch Ultra is designed to operate in extreme cold and hot environments as well as under 130 feet of water. It’s housed in a rugged titanium case and its face is made of tough sapphire crystal.
The Ultra also has an “action” button that is programmable, an 85-decibel siren for emergencies, and its controls are designed for use with gloves. It has three microphones for voice call clarity, even in windy conditions.
Apple Watch Ultra Programmable Action Button (Image Credit: Apple)
Cellular is built into the Ultra, which has a battery life of 36 hours on a single charge, though Apple promised that would be increased to 60 hours with new battery optimization software, available this fall.
In addition, the Ultra supports dual-frequency GPS, and can be turned into a scuba diving computer with the Dive Plus app.
The Ultra will sell for US$799 and will be available on September 23.
“I’m a scuba diver, and I’ve had several dive watches that were over $1,000,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, a technology consulting firm in Campbell, Calif.
“Here’s getting you a dive watch and everything else, plus cellular for $799,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s a really good deal.”
“It will be a huge hit among extreme sports enthusiasts and scuba divers,” he said.
Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research, a consumer technology consulting firm in New York City, calls Ultra a “statement product.”
“This shows that the Apple Watch can be used in harsh environments by people engaged in extreme activities,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“It’s not something that mainstream people need, but you can see how some technology, like action buttons, could filter out future iterations of other models,” he said.
Apple also rolled out its Series 8 Apple Watch at its pre-taped event. The watch sports a new temperature sensor, which women can use to track ovulation. Ovulation is usually measured with a thermometer and a journal. The new watch makes that task a lot easier and more convenient by providing automatic retrospective ovulation estimates.
“The Apple Watch has turned into a digital-health wearable solution,” Mark N. Venna, president and principal analyst at SmartTech Research in San Jose, Calif., told TechNewsWorld.
The watch, as well as the new iPhones, also has a new crash detection feature. When an accident is detected, the watch will automatically connect to emergency services, provide the location of the accident, and notify emergency contacts on the watch.
To make up for the feature, Apple added two new motion sensors to the Series 8, an improved three-axis gyroscope, and a higher G-force accelerometer. The accelerometer can measure up to 256 Gs, allowing it to detect the extreme effects of an accident.
Crash Detection uses an advanced sensor-fusion algorithm and a new, more powerful accelerometer and gyroscope in the Apple Watch to detect and deliver car crash alerts. If the user does not respond after a 10 second countdown, the device will dial emergency services. (image credit: Apple)
This feature operates only when a user is in a moving vehicle and collects data only around the time of a potential accident.
“The Apple Watch is not only for health, but also for safety,” Bajrin said.
Series 8 watches have a battery life of 18 hours but with the new Low Power Mode feature the battery life can be extended up to 36 hours.
Series 8 will be available on 16 September. The GPS version costs $399 and the cellular version costs $499.
During its online event, Apple also introduced iPhone 14 Pro with 6.1-inch display and Pro Max with 6.7-inch display.
The Pro models, as well as the 14 and 14-Plus models, support a new emergency SOS service via satellite. Newer iPhone models have special antennas built into them so they can send text messages to high-flying satellites.
To aid in the connection, the software on the phone shows a user where to point their phone to connect to the satellite and stay connected for the satellite to go on.
The iPhone 14 lineup offers Emergency SOS via satellite. This feature enables users to message with emergency services when cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is not available. (image credit: Apple)
Due to the narrow bandwidth involved in satellite communications, Apple created a custom, short-text compression algorithm to reduce the average size of a message by a factor of three.
Initially, satellite service will be limited to the United States and Canada, where it will be offered free of charge for two years.
“The satellite phone feature will have tremendous value for a lot of people,” Venna said.
“It would have been the perfect call for Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway,” he joked. “If he had the iPhone 14, though, it would have been a very short film.”
Bajrin announced that Apple is leading a new path in personal safety and security. “It’s going to be a big part of their DNA going forward,” he said.
“The satellite feature in the iPhone 14 Pro sets a new precedent in smartphones,” he added.
Apple has also upgraded the cameras in the new Pro model. The main camera at the rear of the unit houses a 48-megapixel sensor with support for a fast f/1.78 lens, while the front camera houses a 12MP sensor with an f/1.9 lens. The main camera also supports the ProRaw format.
The Pro model also has a new chip, the A16. “With the A16, Apple has the most powerful smartphone camera on the market right now,” Bajrin said.
“The 48 megapixels and ProRaw capabilities bring the iPhone 14 Pro series very close to a true DSLR,” he said.
Vena notes that Apple is shooting beyond analogy with digital single-lens reflex cameras. “It’s clear that Apple doesn’t want the camera in its phone to be on par with a DSLR, but they want it to be better than a DSLR in many ways,” he observed.
He said the upgrade to the front camera on the new iPhone represents another change in Apple’s thinking about the cameras in its phones. “It used to be that the back camera was the most important camera,” he said. “They now view the front camera and the back camera with equal importance.”
The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max have the first 48MP camera on the iPhone. (image credit: Apple)
Apple has made great strides in video stabilization with the Pro and Max models. “You can literally take video with very little image movement,” Rubin said.
The frequently worn notch on the front of the Pro and Pro Max models has been changed to a dynamic notification center. “They’ve turned it into a profit rather than a loss,” Rubin said.
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus will be available in five colors: Midnight, Blue, Starlight, Purple and (Product) Red. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will be available in four colors: Space Black, Silver, Gold and Deep Purple.
The iPhone Pro 14 will sell for $999; Pro Max for $1,099. The iPhone 14 will sell for $799; 14-Plus for $899. All will be available on 16 September.
Apple also introduced a new version of its AirPods Pro, which features a new H2 chip, longer battery life, and noise cancellation technology that’s up to two times more efficient than its predecessor at blocking out noise.
It’s also improved the earbuds’ “Transparency” mode by filtering out some of the disruptive noise that would normally be heard with noise-canceling. “I haven’t seen other earbuds do this,” Rubin observed. “It addresses one of the disadvantages of transparency mode. You let the whole world in, including harsh noises.”
The new AirPods Pro will go on sale on September 23 for $249.
AirPods Pro brings upgrades in transparency mode, spatial audio, and convenience features while canceling twice as much noise as its predecessor. A new low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier deliver rich bass and crystal-clear sound. A new extra-small ear tip could provide a better fit to more users. (image credit: Apple)
“Most of these devices are just upgrades,” said Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tireus Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm in Phoenix.
“There’s only one new use model that is the Apple Watch Ultra,” he continued. “Some of the features they’re advertising on the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus have been on Android phones for three or four generations.”
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult for Apple and everyone else to justify these annual upgrades,” he said. “However, I will give Apple credit. I am happy to see that they are offering these products in a reasonable price range, and they are not trying to offer a $2,000 smartphone.