I finally had time to sit down and write on my iPad after 72 hours spent traveling between continents, meeting friends I've long known only through Twitter and their blogs, visiting San Francisco, and trying American pasta. And also going to my first Apple event.
After nearly six years spent publishing MacStories and covering Apple media events from the comfort of my bedroom through live streams and Twitter, getting the opportunity to enjoy an event in person surrounded by people whom I've remotely known for a long time is truly something special. I needed time to process the information and discussions from the keynote, and I'm still catching up on the announcements from an outside perspective. As usual, Apple has only shared a portion of their announcements on stage, saving the details and fine print for its website, various FAQ sections, and a new version of iOS.
Thankfully, the MacStories team has done an excellent job in covering the news from Apple's March 9th event and providing in-depth overviews. I'll focus on my personal thoughts and considerations after attending the event and trying Apple's new MacBook and upcoming Apple Watch.
Whilst watching yesterday's keynote, it struck me how Apple has been increasing the use of artistic and cinematic videos to reveal and explain products during their keynotes. Sure, videos have been used in the past, but in recent keynotes it has been taken to the next level. It's particularly striking if you try and compare the original iPhone keynote announcement (essentially just Steve Jobs with a static slide deck) and September's Watch announcement (two highly produced videos, interspersed with more details from Tim Cook).
There are undoubtedly a wide variety of reasons that could explain why Apple is increasing the use of such videos. Perhaps it is because almost no-one can match the on-stage charisma and presence that Steve Jobs conveyed, perhaps it's just fun making these videos, maybe they think the videos make the keynote stronger, perhaps they want to create video content to include on their website, or maybe it's just true that a picture is worth a 1,000 words.
But whatever the reasoning (and I suspect it's a mix of all of the above), I really enjoyed the videos from yesterday's keynote and it's hard to say that about many promotional product videos. In fact it's kind of crazy to remind yourself that these are just product videos, because some of them are truly beautiful and intricate pieces of art. That's particularly true of the Apple Watch videos which focus on refinement process of the core material from the three collections: alumnium (Apple Watch Sport), stainless steel (Apple Watch) and gold (Apple Watch Edition).
I've embedded all the videos from yesterdays keynote below, along with some GIFs of a few of my favorite 'scenes'.
In the spring of 2014 — months before HBO would announce its plans to sell the pay-TV channel as a standalone subscription service — HBO CEO Richard Plepler had already reached out, via an intermediary, to Apple media boss Eddy Cue: Would Apple want to sell HBO’s service on the Web?
Of course Apple would. So the basic agreement for HBO Now came together quickly, according to people familiar with the deal.
Peter Kafka at Re/code has more detail about the deal that made Apple the exclusive launch partner of HBO Now, the new service that will allow anyone in the US to get HBO's full library of back catalog and currently airing shows without a cable subscription. Significantly, the deal gives Apple a three month exclusivity window. That's long enough to mean that anyone wanting to watch the new seasons of Game of Thrones, VEEP or Silicon Valley (they all start April 12) will either need to have a cable subscription with HBO, or use HBO Now on the Apple TV, iPhone or iPad.
Watching the China store opening I was struck by the question of how a company instills so much devotion and emotion in customers over a new retail store opening. I think the answer is in delight.
Doesn’t HBO coming to Apple TV feel like the tiny hole in the dike that could pull the whole thing down?
I felt like the whole Apple TV bit was sort of a tease. Apple TV still needs an overhaul.
The avalanche of opinion pieces on Apple's announcements from today is only just starting, but this one from David Sparks is an early favorite for me, with most of my thoughts aligning with his. Plus, if you're getting a bit tired from all the Apple news today, you'll be relieved to know that all his thoughts are written in a concise dot-point format (with the above points being his first three observations).
I'll just add a few points myself:
- Apple Pay was briefly mentioned, highlighting some significant progress in the United States. But still not a word on international availability, disappointing given contactless payment is already a huge thing in Australia and Europe.
- Interesting that they didn't adjust the MacBook naming conventions. The MacBook Air is now both thicker and heavier than the MacBook.
- HBO Now is US-only, once again disappointing from an international perspective, but hardly surprising.
- There was a lot of focus on China, which is unsurprising. Not only did they open the keynote with a video of a retail store opening in China (and then detail Apple Retail progress in China) but China will get the Apple Watch on day one. Makes a lot of sense given how important the country now is for Apple.
- Not that it was expected at all, but we didn't hear anything about music.
Earlier today Apple held its ‘Spring Forward’ keynote event to unveil their new their new MacBook, announce more Apple Watch details, reveal they are the exclusive launch partner with HBO Now, and unveil ResearchKit to help medical researchers.
We’ve covered the headline details of all those announcements, but as always there are little things that we didn’t capture, or tidbits that others have uncovered since the event. That’s what this article is dedicated to, little interesting things that you may not have noticed yourself.
On the heels of today’s keynote, Apple has released iOS 8.2 to the public. The update includes support for the Apple Watch, improvements to the Health app, increased stability, and bug fixes.
Apple Watch support includes a new Apple Watch app (for us all to stare at longingly for the next few weeks), which is available on iPhone 5 and later.
Improvements to the Health app include the ability to select units of measure for certain statistics, the ability to add and visualize workout sessions from 3rd party apps, and new privacy settings which let you turn off tracking of steps, distance, and flights climbed.
There are also lots of improvements to stability and even more bug fixes for various small issues across the system.
In my personal usage, iOS 8.2 has been far more solid than previous iterations, and feels like the first release in which iOS 8 has really stabilized.
The iOS 8.2 update is available now in Software Update.
One of the unexpected announcements from Apple’s Spring Forward keynote this morning was ResearchKit. ResearchKit is a new initiative by Apple which will enable medical researchers to tap into the vast amount of iPhones in use around the world in order to gather new types of data on an unprecedented scale.
During the keynote, Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of Operations, took the stage to talk about the problems of medical research. Last year Apple announced a similar initiative, HealthKit, which was more focused on personal health. According to Williams, while talking to medical experts regarding HealthKit, the conversations often led to research and the problems that the field faced. Some of the biggest challenges to medical research, as Williams stated them, are limited participation (small sample sizes), subjective data, infrequent data, and one-way communication. He went on to say that there are hundreds of millions of iPhone users in the world, and many of them would gladly participate in these studies if it were only simpler and easier to do so.
Alongside today’s new line of MacBooks, Apple also announced updates to its MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines.
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display has received Apple’s new Force Touch trackpad, as well as being updated to the latest fifth-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Graphics 6100. Its flash storage has been updated to be two times faster, and its battery life has been increased as well (now advertised as 10 hours of battery life for web browsing and 12 hours for iTunes movie playback). Strangely, the 15-inch retina MacBook Pro has been left out of these updates.
The 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs have both been updated to fifth generation Intel Core processors, Intel HD Graphics 6000, and Thunderbolt 2 connectors. The 13-inch MacBook Air received the bump to two times faster flash, but the 11-inch model did not.
The new 13-inch retina MacBook Pro and 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs are all available for purchase today (MacBook Airs can be purchased online here, and MacBook Pros here). You can see Apple’s full press release here.
At this morning’s Spring Forward keynote event, Apple unveiled a brand new line of 12-inch retina MacBooks. Apple is calling this a “reinvention” of the notebook computer, a claim that is evident in every aspect of the new Mac’s composition.
Size and Display
The all-new notebooks are a mere 13.1 mm thin, and weigh in at just 2 pounds. Their 12-inch retina display has a resolution of 2304 x 1440 pixels, and at 0.88 mm thin, it’s the thinnest display ever included on a Mac. It also has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a 178 degree viewing angle. According to Apple, they have increased the size the aperture on every pixel on the display, boosting the new Mac’s energy efficiency by 30% while still maintaining the same level of brightness.