Apple wrap: Five takeaways from today’s Apple event

3D Medical's app allows professionals to zero in on the human anatomy.
3D Medical's app allows professionals to zero in on the human anatomy.

Well, that was both less than advertised, and much, much more. Apple dropped its longstanding objections to the stylus, introducing the new “Apple Pencil” in conjunction with its iPad-on-steroids (otherwise known as iPad Pro). The TV developments were somewhat underwhelming — certainly no major reinvention of the way we experience TV, movies, and video — but the improvements to the iPhone and the services around the phone were stunning.

iPad Pro

This thing ain’t cheap, and it’s not really that portable. The 12.9-inch diagonal screen is huge — Apple says it’s as wide as the current iPad is tall. And it weighs as much as the original iPad did, and that was hard to hold in one hand for a long time when reading a book. But it’s not really meant to be a portable device, if by portable you mean take it to the beach. Left at home or at work, or stuffed in a backpack at college, it’s definitely a great second screen, and maybe even a first with the optional keyboard and stylus. It’s taking straight aim at Microsoft’s Surface, and it’s not cheap. Starting at $799, with the optional Smart Keyboard at $169 and Apple Pencil at $99, it’s priced where Microsoft’s premium Surfaces start. But it had great workplace features — the 3D Medical anatomy app for medical professionals was amazing.

Apple TV

The new $149 to $199 Apple TV is not the revolutionary new video/movies/TV platform that, say, the iTunes Music Store was. Apple disclosed no new agreements with content providers, so cable’s grip on television remains strong. Apple CEO Tim Cook said “The TV experience hasn’t changed much in decades,” but didn’t really usher in the new era. “The future of television is apps,” he said — the same future people have been experiencing on iPhones, iPads, and the current Apple TV for a while. He did open up the previously closed platform to outside developers, with the new TV OS, so the pace of change may quicken. And Major League Baseball previewed improvements to its app that will allow stats to display, and side-by-side games to be monitored.

While not revolutionizing the industry, the new device is a major improvement on the outdated current model. The new remote allows swiping and voice search using Siri. Popular phone and tablet games can now move to the living room — local gamemaker Harmonix debuted some new games, and others showed games playable by as many as four people at once, with some using their iPhone or iPad as a Wii-like controller.

Apple Watch

Apple similarly has opened up the watch to outside developers, and his hoping for a burst of creativity. It debuted new bands and finish colors — rose gold, anyone? — and showed off medical uses for professionals to be able to monitor the vital signs of patients remotely. The watch continues to face an uphill battle in persuading people they really need the thing, but Apple keeps trying to build the case.

iPhone 6s 

The least talked-about device leading up to the presentation actually had some of the coolest features. “Force Touch” — which Apple debuted earlier this year for laptops, was rebranded “3D Touch” and will enable the phone to interpret finger gestures of differing pressures to open up apps quickly, and anticipate what you might want to do — say, take a quick selfie with the camera. Speaking of selfies, Apple will use the front screen as a way to provide a flash to the front-facing camera, and it has introduced a slew of improvements to photos. “Live photos” captures a second and a half on either side of the shutter button of a previously still photo, giving you a three-second animation to photos that is either spooky or cool, depending on your perspective. The phones stay the same price, and will be available starting Sept. 25.

Services

Here’s where things got really interesting. Apple swiped some pricing models from phone carriers and competitors. It is offering a new iPhone Upgrade program that, for $32 a month, allows users to get a new iPhone every year. The price includes AppleCare, which helps for those of us who drop the phone in the drink between upgrades. In response to Google’s low storage prices, and the relatively stingy amount of storage on its lower-end devices for storing photos, music, and videos, Apple cut the price of its iCloud storage plans in half; 50 gigabytes now costs just 99 cents a month.