Apple special event: new iPad Air, Apple Watch Series 6...
Apple Special Event live
Watch Series 6 with blood oxygen monitoring: starting at $399
Watch SE: starting at $279
Eighth generation iPad: starting at $329
New iPad Air with completely overhauled industrial design: starting at $599
WatchOS 7, iPadOS 14 and iOS 14 - available from tomorrow
Individual (Music, TV, Arcade, 50GB iCloud storage): $14.95 / month
Family (Music, TV, Arcade, 200GB iCloud storage): $19.95 / month
Premier (Music, TV, Arcade, News, Fitness, 2TB iCloud storage): $29.95 / month
And that's it
Tim Cook is incredibly excited by everything Apple has announced today and hopes that everyone has a great day. As do all of us here.
iOS 14 released tomorrow - that's the OS for the new iPhone we didn't get to see today. It'll work for phones going back about 5 generations.
iPad Air pricing
Starts at $599, available next month.
iPad Air goes to USB-C
Apple's Lightning connector has gone from the Air. The Pro moved to USB-C earlier this year. Big question: what will the iPhone 12 have?
Camera looks pretty good - though not at the standard of the iPhones.
It works with the Magic Keyboard too. Which is beautiful, if pricey, solution.
New A14 chip
A14 chip. 11.8 billion transistors on the chip. That's a lot of transistors. Like a seriously massive amount of transistors. Apple reckon it'll be incredible performance, with lower energy use.
It can do 11 trillion operations a second, say Apple. Which is mindboggling.
Now it's the developers' turn to explain what they can do with 11 trillion operations a second. Games, photo enhancing apps, DJ apps, for example. Of course it all looks very, very cool.
Completely redesigned. Looks like it follows the industrial design of the iPad Pro.
Smaller bezels (but not completely gone). Five colours: green, sky blue and rose gold.
Liquid retina display. 2360 x 1640 pixels. No button on the front.
Touch ID is indeed on the top power button (we got that wrong!) Smallest ever authorisation tech say Apple. So fingerprint unlocks the iPad from the power button.
The new operating system for the iPad (based on iOS, but for the bigger screen). Handwriting recognition first up with the Apple Pencil.
Back to Tim Cook, who is talking about a "big year for iPad". Updating the rest of the iPad lineup today after updating the iPad Pro earlier this year.
First up, the new 8th generation standard iPad. 10.2" retina display. $329 and $299 for education. You can order today with availability this Friday.
As expected - the service bundle. Music, TV, Arcade, News+, Fitness+... It may be called One, but there are three options.
Individual: $14.95 Music, TV, Arcade, iCloud storage
Family: $19.95 Music, TV, Arcade, iCloud storage
Premier: $29.95 Music, TV, Arcade, News+, Fitness, iCloud storage
The big thing with is that it includes big amounts of iCloud storage, which has been a major gripe for a long time now, with people unable to backup their photos and phones without splashing out a lot of cash.
Apple Music is currently $9.99, so this looks like a big win.
A new service built around the Watch, with a range of video workouts you can follow, and the Watch keeps track of what you're doing.
Yoga, cycling, dance, rowing, strength, core...
New workouts every week, with new music in each workout (and here's where the Apple universe works well, because if you're an Apple Music user you can send the playlist across to your music app if you liked the tunes.)
$9.99 a month or $79.99 a year. Free for three months if you buy a new Watch. That's a little disappointing - for a $399 Watch I'd have hoped for a year's subscription, similar to Apple TV subscription with bigger ticket items.
The future of health is on your wrist
That's the strapline for what looks like it'll be a new series of ads. The video was quite entertaining. And it clearly shows that Apple is doubling down on the Watch as a health and fitness product.
You can order the Series 6 and SE today, with availability from Friday.
Apple Watch pricing
Series 3 - $199
SE - $279
Series 6 - $399
Apple Watch SE
The cheaper version. Has the large display of the Series 6 but the Series 5 chip. It has the cellular option too. Fall detection and altimeter included.
Starting at $279.
Apple Watch for families
Up till now Apple Watch has had to pair with an individual iPhone. Now you can pair your kids' watches with your iPhone.
There's a number of things you'll be able to do just on the Watch, so kids can have their own watch and do stuff on it.
A new band. No clasp, just one loop of silicon. Seven colours. There's also a braided version, made of recycled yarn. That one is available in five colours.
New Watch faces
Classic designs, memoji faces, artist designed faces... as expected there's a host of new options.
There are also more tools for developers to come up with Watch faces - that's a big bonus.
What powers Watch Series 6?
S6 silicon package. 20% faster than the S5. And it's more efficient, so longer battery life - which means Apple can have a brighter always-on screen.
There's also an altimeter in the new Watch - hikers and skiers are going to love that.
Apple Watch Series 6
New colours (the blue looks very tasty) and a new health sensor - to measure blood oxygen saturation.
The watch can calculate blood oxygen saturation when the user wants, taking 15 seconds to give you a reading. And the watch will monitor your blood oxygen constantly in the background and alert you if it detects a problem.
New: sleep app, handwashing app, and measuring VO2 max - which measures heart and overall fitness.
Apple Watch's impact on individuals
Apple do this so well - individual stories of people who have had their lives improved, or saved by the Watch. There's always a couple of absolute 'something in my eye' moments.
The most loved Watch in the world
Timo Cook says the Apple Watch is the most loved watch in the world. Would be good to know what, if any, metric that refers to.
Off we go
Panpipe music and we're swirling down a wormhole into the heart of the Apple universe... starting at the Cupertino HQ.
And here's CEO Tim Cook to greet us, promising some special products...
He says he's proud that Apple products have helped people during the Covid-19 pandemic. "Today we're focusing on Apple Watch and iPad."
The Apple logo is swirling... not long to go!
One More Thing
There are a number of things that could go under the One More Thing reveal. Our bet is on AirTags - tiles users can attach to devices, keys or other items, to allow them to be found easily using your watch or phone. There are products already in the market, but Apple will likely be looking to have a seamless, better solution than what is already out there.
New iPad Air
The lower divisions of the iPad range is a funny old affair right now - basically it’s somewhat hard to decide between what Apple consider to be the bog-standard, sorry, entry level, iPad and the iPad Air. The pricing isn’t that far apart and for many users its hard to make the case to stump up for the slightly pricier Air over the standard iPad with the two products appearing fairly similar products (even if the Air is the superior design). My old man was recently in the market for an iPad and it was pretty hard explaining what the difference between the two is - he ended up going for the standard iPad.
So, expect a funkier Air design. Nearly bezel-free with a touch sensor on the power button. At least that's the rumour - we’re reserving judgement on that call - it feels fiddly. Surely Face ID is Apple’s preferred route map for its products, even with the current situation meaning people are wearing masks and making unlocking with Face ID impossible.
Apple Store closed
The online Apple Store is closed... new products coming!
New cheaper Watch
The Apple rumour mill also reckons the Cupertino-based company will release a specific lower-end Watch to replace the Series 3 that’s the current cheapo Watch. While it may be a new design, the reality is that it’s going to use the older technology found in the current Series 4 or 5 (making things you’ve already perfected in the tech world is very, very cheap, compared to the cutting edge stuff). What price point will it hit is the question. The current entry edition Series 3 watch is at $199.
Apple Watch improvements
Apple is reckoned to be working to improve the ECG feature on the Watch. Right now it struggles to produce a decent reading when your heart is between 100 and 120 beats per minute and Apple have apparently upgraded the watch to sort that.
Apple Watch Series 6
What we’ll likely get today: Apple Watch Series 6.
This latest version of the Apple watch will likely keep pretty much the form factor of last year’s bigger Series 5, along with the always-on retina display. But it will have a new, faster chip (Apple designed S6) and almost certainly slightly better battery life. It will also be able to use all the bands the Series 5 could.
What’s new: all the rumours point to a blood oxygen monitor.
This is an interesting addition, because Apple’s product design team will have had this on the drawing board well before the start of the Covid pandemic - these products have fairly long lag times from concept to shipping. But blood oxygen monitoring has become more of a widely known concept since the coronavirus pandemic swept the world. A nasty effect of Covid-19 is for people to not feel breathless, but in fact have dangerously low oxygen levels. In a healthy person blood oxygen levels should be over 95%, but some Covid sufferers have had levels down at 55%. Fears of this symptom have driven sales of stand alone blood oxygen monitors, with a basic one coming in at around 50 dollars. The addition of a blood oxygen monitor to the new Watch is going to make it an easy sell for some people - just as the addition of the fall monitor and limited ECG did in previous years.
The Watch Series 6 will be expected to automatically notify users of a low blood oxygen level. This could help prevent compromised heart and brain function.
The Watch is of course no iPhone in terms of sales, market penetration and sheer consumer awareness. But then, what device really comes close to the iPhone? Apple’s flagship device absolutely dominates its category in terms of mind share and profits (the iPhone bags something of the order of 75% of all smartphone profits globally) and is Apple’s biggest segment by far - the company has sold 2.2 billion iPhones since it started making them and in their most recent quarterly figures it made up 44.3 per cent of the company’s total revenue.
BUT, while the Watch is no iPhone, it is an absolutely mammoth business in its own right, and appears to be only picking up pace. We were staunch critics of the $10,000 cases Jony Ive managed to convince CEO Tim Cook to ship with the very first Watch, but since that extravagance, Apple have focused in on what the Watch is for: health (plus messaging and a few other bits and bobs) and it is remarkably successful.
We don’t know exactly how successful because Apple doesn’t break out Watch sales, instead including them in a broad category of wearable (including AirPods, Beats headphones and the distinctly unwearable HomePod) but estimates put it at likely $5 billion annual business. Most companies would saw off their right leg to have that sort of minor segment.
(Full disclosure: I've got an Apple Watch and it pretty much doesn’t leave my wrist. I wish I could say that’s what keeps the Omega Speedmaster and the IWC Portugieser Tourbillon in the dresser drawer, rather than the fact I don’t own them, but the reality is that a lot of very nice handcrafted Swiss watches are getting ignored day-to-day due to the sheer functionality of Apple’s offering).
New iPad Air, new Watches...
While Apple are probably the tech company that most likes to play its cards close to its chest, there was no way they were going to allow today’s event to go ahead with most people thinking they’d be talking about new phones… so various little leaks appear to have done the job that the big-name Apple pundits are confident today will not be about the company’s stellar product, but most likely focus on the new Watches and probably a new iPad Air.
A helpful clue also came in the name of the event: “Time flies”. A pretty clear indication we’re talking watches as the main thing today.
The big news: no iPhones
So, let's get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Apple had settled into a comfy routine of releasing its flagship iPhones around the start of September every year, meaning back in pre-pandemic January every Apple commentator had this Tuesday ringed in their filofax (possibly calendar app) as the day the iPhone 12 would likely be announced. But Covid-19 has hit supply chains and Apple is a tad behind on its manufacturing. Which means every expectation today is that Apple will NOT be talking about new iPhones.
Of course, with Covid-19 today's event is an online-only affair, meaning we can say this year we’re not at the Apple event because of Covid-19. All the other years it’s been because we haven’t stumped up the airfare to get to California.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of Apple’s special event, sorry, special Apple Event, ‘live’ from Cupertino.