Apple ‘Time Flies’ event highlights
What was announced, and why it matters
Apple’s September launch event has been traditionally all about launching new iPhones, but with news that the pandemic had delayed iPhone schedules into October, the ‘Time Flies’ centered around big updates to Apple Watch and iPad Air, among a slew of new subscription services and new software releases. Here’s all the shiny new stuff announced at the event and why it will matter to Apple customers in the months ahead.
Apple Watch Series 6: With the ‘Time Flies’ tagline, a new Apple Watch was a given. The new Series 6 is more than its new blue, red, gold and graphite colour options and the snappier S6 chip inside (it’s 20% faster than its predecessor). The model now features an oximeter sensor which can take a reading of blood oxygen levels in 15 seconds. There’s also a new always-on altimeter to measure elevation changes in real-time on your workouts. Prices start at Rs. 40,900 for the GPS variant and Rs. 49,900 for the always-connected LTE variant.
Why it matters: Oxygen saturation is a good indicator of overall fitness and has come into the limelight in the COVID-era to represent how well red blood cells are delivering oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The new sensors are a welcome addition to what is already the most feature-rich smartwatch out there, and the new body colors (and some all-new band options) will bring in some much-needed personalization to the Watch lineup.
Apple Watch SE: There’s an Apple Watch for everyone…well, at least as long as you have an iPhone in the home. The new Apple Watch SE takes the Series 5 design and an S5 chip down to a lower price point, omitting the new Series 6 sensors along the way. Yours for a starting price of Rs. 29,900 (GPS) and Rs. 33,900 (GPS + Cellular). A new Family Setup feature allows setup of Apple Watches for kids and the elderly who may not have their own iPhone, so you can enable a Watch on their wrist for connectivity, safety and fitness tracking.
Why it matters: This is Apple’s play into the family, launching not only a somewhat-budget variant but allowing a single iPhone in the home to set up a new Watch, removing the limitation of having the Watch paired to an individual iPhone. Now the Android-toting senior in the home can also wear an Apple Watch. Smart move.
Apple iPad Air: The biggest changes for the event were reserved for the new iPad Air, and despite the visual similarity to the iPad Pro, calling it an iPad Pro on a budget would be to do the Air injustice. Apple’s thinned out the bezels to fit in a larger, denser 2360x1640pixel 10.9-inch display into the same footprint, and TouchID has been retained, with the sapphire-crystal-capped sensor integrated into the sleep/wake button. A pandemic friendly move, if I ever saw one…leaving me hoping that the next iPhones will bring in a similar solution as a backup to FaceID. The device also makes the shift to USB-C, a welcome change since you can now use the same cable to charge your other phones and MacBooks. In a surprising move, Apple’s kitted the iPad Air with Apple’s new A14 Bionic chip, the first showing for the chip on an Apple product…and more importantly, the first chip to be built on a 5-nanometer process that is set to be the new standard for the silicon industry in the coming year. Compatibility with the Magic Keyboard, Apple Pencil and the inclusion of stereo speakers takes it right up there alongside the 11-inch iPad Pro. The iPad Air starts at Rs. 54,900 (Wi-Fi) and Rs. 66,900 (LTE).
Why it matters: Apple’s mid-range iPad is cheaper and almost as good as the iPad Pro, and the lack of a 120Hz ProMotion display and quad-speakers is offset by the benefit of being the only device so far to carry the new A14 Bionic processor. Muddies the water a little bit, since the Air now carries many of the benefits of the Pro at a much lower price point.
Apple iPad 8th gen: On the entry level, Apple has updated the base iPad with the A12 Bionic chip, and that’s about it. Pretty much the same tablet one has come to expect, with a performance bump. The iPad 8th generation will be available for Rs. 29,900 in India.
Why it matters: iPads have been selling like hot cakes due to the high demand for folks working and schooling from home, and the update just keeps things current, nothing more, nothing less.
Apple One: Long rumored, the Apple services bundle, now named Apple One, is finally here. Why subscribe to just one service when you can subscribe to all of them, that too at an attractive all-you-can-eat plan starting at Rs. 195 for individuals and Rs. 365 for family plans. Available later this year, the One bundle includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and iCloud storage.
Why it matters: If you subscribe to Apple Music and even one other Apple service, this is a no-brainer to pick up. The India pricing is a stellar value.
Fitness+: With an eye on the home fitness wave, Apple announced the Fitness+ service which offers video streams of workouts in a wide variety of categories such as HIIT, dance, yoga, cycling and more. You follow along with the videos on your iPhone or Apple TV, and data from your watch is streamed in real-time to your screen alongside the videos. Apple says classes will feature Apple’s own instructors, with new sessions added each week. Fitness+ will $9.99 per month / $79.99 per year (no India launch or pricing as yet).
Why it matters: India availability and pricing hasn’t been announced, but as a service excluded from the Apple One bundle, don’t expect this to land on Indian shores too soon.
And finally, updates for your devices roll out starting September 16, and consumers will be able to download iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14 on their iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. One had expected a late September rollout, so anything earlier is nice!
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator, and tweets @2shar