Apple Wonderlust Event 2023: 7 highlights you need to know

Amidst the high-volume announcements made during the event, there were a number of features that matters once the dust settles
Apple Wonderlust Event 2023: 7 highlights you need to know
Apple Wonderlust Event 2023: 7 highlights you need to know

Apple’s iPhone events are among the most widely followed events on the tech calendar – they’re incredibly noisy on X/Twitter particularly if you follow the #AppleEvent hashtag. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re already somewhat clued in on the launches of the iPhone 15 series and the new Apple Watch Series 9 from last night. Amidst the high-volume announcements, there were a number of features that caught my eye, stuff that I think matters once the dust settles. 

Double Tap
Apple has fitted the Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with a seriously ingenious trick called Double Tap. It’s essentially an accessibility-first feature from 2021 that has been given a new name and a bunch of new capabilities. At its essence, it allows you to control your Apple Watch not via the touchscreen or the dial, but by simply tapping your index finger and thumb together twice (on the hand where the watch is worn). The watch sensors, including the gyroscope, accelerometer and heart rate monitor, detect the unique set of hand movements and changes in blood flow when this happens, and act as the primary button in any application. Imagine taking a photo with the camera, or picking up/ending a call, snoozing an alarm, scrolling through widgets – all without using your other hand! Imagine the possibilities – operating the watch when you’re cooking, hanging off a sheer rock cliff face or when you’re feeling seriously lazy. (The new gesture is coming next month to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 via a software update)

USB-C everywhere
If you haven’t followed the memes and the European Union legislation that led up to this point, it’s finally here – all four new iPhone models and the otherwise-unchanged AirPods Pro 2 are switching over from the Lightning connector to the USB-C connector, the same that today already charges Macs and iPads and practically every Android phone out there. This is the first change to the connector since Lightning was introduced in 2012, and while it will mean a short-term annoyance of having a lot of Lightning cables lying around the house, in the long run you’ll be able to pack lighter and use the same USB-C cables that likely power all of your other gadgets. Heck, you can even borrow a charger at work without having to be that person who asks for an “iPhone charger”. Two important caveats: first, the iPhone 15 supports a USB-C port with USB 2.0 speeds, and it’s only the Pro models that will unlock the 10 gigabits per second USB 3 speeds for significantly faster data transfer. Second, we're not truly saying goodbye to the Lightning connector just yet – a lineup of accessories, including the Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, AirPods (3rd gen) and AirPods Max still use Lightning. Who knows, there may be a switch for all of these over the next couple of months? 

Action button
The mute button has long been a staple of iPhone design, even inspiring OnePlus to make it a signature design element in their flagship devices. In a world where the mute button isn’t used quite as much – I know my iPhone is constantly on silent mode – it’s probably outlived its purpose. It’s now being replaced by the Action Button, a solitary button above the volume controls on the iPhone 15 Pro models that will, by default, still silence your iPhone. Additionally, it can perform a whole set of functions, depending on what you set it up for – like enable a specific focus mode like Do Not Disturb, launch the camera, switch on the flashlight, start a voice memo or trigger custom Shortcuts. It gives a yet unseen power to operating the iPhone – you can trigger any of these outcomes by long pressing the Action button, so this is something that can be achieved even when it’s in the pocket, by pure hand feel. 

Mother Nature
Environment initiatives are often found in the sidenotes of annual reports, or in the case of larger companies, in an extensive environment/sustainability report that often misses the news cycles. Apple brought the matter front and center in its launch via a memorable video of Apple executives meeting Mother Nature herself (essayed by Octavia Spencer). Whether it was the way typically complex numbers and metrics were conveyed, how the targets have been achieved and what remains…or even the jokes about environmental compliance for discontinued products, this little diversion bang in the middle of the event handled it in a fashion that even a child could understand. Coupled with its emphasis on sustainable packaging and carbon neutrality of the Watch Series 9, the company brought a matter which is often an afterthought to the center of the conversation.

More optical zoom 
iPhones have been dinged in the past for not moving past the 3x optical zoom, even on their Pro models. That changes, but only for the Pro Max this year, with its new 5x/120mm zoom enabled by the new tetraprism design of its lens/sensor. More zoom is great news, and while I’m yet to try it out, more reach while shooting action from further distances is a big deal. One only wishes it was extended to the smaller, 15 Pro model as well. 

Console-level Gaming…on an iPhone
Apple showed off AAA titles like Resident Evil: Village (a Resident Evil 4 remake) and Assassins Creed Mirage running natively on an iPhone 15 Pro at the launch event. The new iPhone 15 Pro series, with its A17 Pro graphics on chip, is 20% faster on the last generation, with features like hardware-accelerated ray tracing. Think about what was shown – the idea that you’ll be able to play a major console title like AC Mirage, which itself is coming to consoles in Oct…on an iPhone early next year with little to no difference in visual fidelity…is a huge win in my books. Could this be the start of more AAA titles available on the Mac in the future? One can only hope.

iPhone 15
At an event where a lot of the attention was lavished on the Pro models, the big win for me personally was the iPhone 15. It’s the biggest upgrade to a non-Pro model in a long while – it inherits the Dynamic Island and the A16 chip from the Pro series plus the 48MP camera sensor with better portrait capabilities, increased display brightness…albeit with a battery-efficient yet long in the tooth 60Hz display. This is the most Pro a non-Pro phone has been in a while, and since it’s the base iPhone, that’s good for more folks. 

Also read: Apple launches iPhone 15, 15 Pro series and unveils Watch 9, Ultra 2 at spectacular tech event 

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