Apple's Predictable Event - September 2019

Written by BradzTech on Sep 10, 2019

It's that time of year again... Tuesday in the second week of September. New iPhone day. Apple's marketing tricks are no longer quite as effective on me-- I approach these type of announcements with skepticism. As new features are rattled off, I constantly wonder, "but what's the price?". But I also approach it with optimism, since Apple has the opportunity to release something truly great to its large user base. So what happened this year?

Apple Arcade

This subscription-based mobile gaming service was already announced several months back. Today, though, two important figures were announced: the release date, just 9 days away on September 19th, and the price of $4.99/month for a family subscription.

Obviously, the value of this purchase will boil down to just how many games are on Arcade. Apple claims there will be quite a variety of games available for the whole family, so we'll see how this holds up. Given the overwhelming popularity of free-to-play games, I am still a little skeptical. But I like the idea of iPhone/iPad being taken as a more serious gaming platform.

Apple TV+

Much like Apple Arcade, Apple TV+ is an already announced subscription service, but today we heard the price: $4.99/month for a family subscription. Given TV+ is clearly slating itself as a Netflix competitor, things could be looking bad for Netflix and its $12.99/month Standard subscription. Like Arcade, we'll have to wait and see the content full lineup on the November 1st release date to evaluate this price. But Apple is also attempting to indoctrinate everyone into their new service by giving a whopping one year subscription to the service along with any iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV purchase starting today.

iPad 7th Generation

As was said on stage, the cheapest iPad is the most popular one, unsurprisingly. So any upgrade to this base model is welcome, and that's exactly what we got today. Sadly, it still didn't adopt the bezel-less design of the iPad Pro, nor the 120Hz display or USB-C port. But it does support the smart keyboard and have a tad larger screen. While not a huge upgrade, the iPad 7th generation, combined with the just around the corner iPadOS, is that much more workable as a full-on computer replacement.

Apple Watch Series 5

Finally! Some rumors pointed to not even getting a new watch this year, but we instead got a huge, long-awaited new feature: always-on display! There were a few other improvements, such as the addition of a true compass. But the always-on display will no doubt be the crowning feature of the Series 5. It can all too often range from annoying to impossible to rotate your wrist every time to view the time or workout statistics in the older watches. This feature may even be enough to compel some older Apple Watch users to upgrade. We heard nothing about the rumored sleep tracking features, however.

I'm still in the belief Apple Watch is Apple's most innovative product over the past few years. While iPhone development has slowed down, and all of Apple's products have become more expensive, Watch has remained their most exciting product. I'm not naive; I know the Apple Watch is another ploy to keep users continuing to buy iPhones. And yeah, Apple is playing a little too hard on the "Apple Watch can save your life" idea in their marketing. And competing smart wrist-worn devices have beaten Apple to the always-on display punch. Despite all this, I feel like the Series 5 is an exciting step forward. Finally with always-on display, the watch will undoubtedly feel like a more complete, versatile device.

As for price, the Apple Watch Series 5 will start at $399 like the now-discontinued Series 4. Not bad, but it's still more expensive than the Watch used to cost in its earlier days. Meanwhile, Apple will continue to sell the Series 3. It's a whole two generations behind in features (mainly, the thinner-bezel display, the "life-saving" fall detection and electrocardiogram features, and now always-on display), but it now had it's price slashed to start at a mere $199. That's a pretty low barrier to entry-- and of course to get sucked into buying more iPhones.

iPhone 11

The first announced iPhone will likely be the most popular, being a replacement for the iPhone XR. First off, I like the new naming scheme. By calling it simply "iPhone 11", it makes its users seem less like second-class citizens, and more like they have the definitive iPhone- even though it remains the lowest cost iPhone of this year.

The rumors about this being a rather underwhelming upgrade seem to have come true. It still has an unfortunate LCD, less-than-awesome resolution screen. We got a change-up of colors, and each iPhone has a bit longer claimed battery life than the already long life of the XR. The most tangible new feature is the new dual lens camera system. Unlike the prior-gen iPhone XS, the additional camera is an ultra-wide lens, not a telephoto lens. It's not a particularly surprising change after Samsung made a big deal out of these lens earlier this year. There's a new camera night mode, finally catching up to Google and Samsung in that front. The front camera has finally been boosted up to 12 MP, and there's a new slow-mo selfie feature.

There is a bit of a silver lining, however. Apple seems to have acknowledged iPhone 11 is not a huge improvement, so they decreased the price a handy $50, down to $699. That's still not a cheap phone, but it's nevertheless a lower price for a better phone. Not to mention, the iPhone's 11 faster processor will more than likely mean it will last a year longer than a prior generation phone. All in all, this is fairly good news if you have been looking to upgrade to the iPhone XR but decided to hold off and see what's next.

Apple is also continuing to sell iPhone XR at $599. This was even larger than the usual $100 year-old price drop. iPhone XR might be a quite considerable phone to many at that price point, being hardly inferior to iPhone 11. However, considering $100 nets an additional year of support, I think the upgrade might well be worth it.

iPhone 11 Pro

Finally, we heard about the iPhone XS's successor. I'm again a fan of this new naming scheme, though I'm still rather lukewarm about the "Pro" moniker. Apple tried to make it seem iPhone 11 Pro is suitable for professionals-- namely videographers-- but I still don't buy that. It really will continue to be the "higher model" iPhone that includes some extra capabilities over iPhone 11.

Indeed, iPhone 11 Pro places a huge emphasis on cameras. It ups things to three camera lenses, much like the Samsung Galaxy S10: telephoto (2x), wide (1x), and ultra-wide (0.5x). Apple also placed emphasis on the display. If the claimed 1200 nits of peak brightness can be achieved, it will be the brightest phone on the market, which will be undoubtedly useful for use in direct sunlight. Other than that, I'm not sold on the cheesily branded "Super Retina XDR" display being far superior to the prior X or XS display, though it is certainly better than any of Apple's LCD displays, including that on the 11. They claim the new display (and processor) is much more power efficient too. Apple claims a whopping 4 hour battery life boost in the iPhone 11 Pro versus iPhone XS. For both the brightness and battery life claims, we'll need to wait for independent testing to be sure.

So yes, the iPhone with all the latest features, (11 Pro) remains that hefty $999. And the larger-screened 11 Pro Max turns it up to eleven... hundred dollars. People who want only the latest and greatest will continue to buy these phones, depending on their size preference.

It all just feels... predictable

My take on the situation, is that it is a better time than ever to buy the "base model" iPhone 11. The screen is still decidedly mediocre for a 2019 high-end smartphone, but still sufficient for the average individual, and you lose that third telephoto camera. From what I can see, those are the only two tangible sacrifices you make to save $300. Critically, you would be getting a 2019 model iPhone, which should therefore last a solid five years from today before losing support. It's not that I love this fact, but smartphones simply don't last forever.

Yeah, I leave this year's Apple event a little disappointed after a full year of buildup to hopefully find something genuinely new and interesting. But Apple users are still likely to appreciate some of these small, predictable changes, many of which were borrowed from competitors. What remains to be seen is, were Apple's adjustments enough, or will another chunk of Apple's somewhat bored user base break free to competitors?

About BradzTech

Welcome! I'm BradzTech, a Computer Science student at Rochester Institute of Technology. I am passionate about computers and analyzing the latest happenings in the rapidly developing modern field of technology, specifically, using it to help people. I share my thoughts on Twitter and, occasionally, here on my blog. Learn more about me.