Yesterday, Apple introduced the 2016 versions of the iPhone, called the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, and the 2016 versions of the Apple Watch. The updates add new features that will be much appreciated by lawyers and other professionals who are using these devices to get work done, but the best new features will be most appreciated when you are off-the-clock. Apple also announced new wireless headphones, called AirPods, which look fantastic. The new iPhone and Apple Watch can be pre-ordered starting tomorrow, and will be available in stores a week from tomorrow. Here are my thoughts on Apple's new product announcements.
Faster. Every year, the iPhone becomes faster, and I always love these improvements because they make the iPhone more responsive. When I get work done using my iPhone, I am constantly switching between apps, jumping from Mail to my calendar to Safari to Dropbox to 1Password etc. As my iPhone gets faster, I can be even more productive. The iPhone 7 has Apple's new A10 Fusion chip, which is even faster than the processor in the 12.9" iPad Pro.
More battery life. The iPhone 7 has a longer battery life. In part, this is because Apple removed the headphone jack, which I discuss below, allowing a bigger battery. In part this is because a new processor knows when to start using only 20% of the power when you don't need full power. The net result is that you can get about two more hours of battery life on the iPhone 7, and about one more hour of battery life on the iPhone 7 Plus (which already had excellent battery life). I suspect that every lawyer has had a busy day when an iPhone was running on empty as the sun started to set. Having an extra two hours every day will be much appreciated.
Better screen. Apple says that the iPhone 7 has a Retina HD display. It is 25% brighter and has a wider color gamut, so colors will be more accurate and photos will be more realistic. This is something I'll have to try to see how much of an improvement it is in real life. But in theory, I love the idea of a better screen on my iPhone because that's what I'm staring at when I use my iPhone.
Water resistant. The iPhone 7 is rated IP67. The first number refers to how much dust can get inside of the device, and 6 is the best — complete protection against dust. The second number refers to liquid ingress protection and 7 is pretty good. The 7 means that in theory the iPhone could be up to 1 meter deep in water for up to 30 minutes and it would still work. That's good, although not as good as an 8 or 9K rating. That 7 rating might make you think that you could take underwater photos and videos using your iPhone 7 as long as you don't do so for more than 30 minutes and don't go that deep underwater. In practice, however, the IP67 rating is based on a controlled test in a lab, and may even be with the phone powered off — I'm not sure about that. Even so, if you have ever had a situation where you accidentally dropped your iPhone in a sink or bathtub or swimming pool, the iPhone 7 is far more likely to survive being in the water than earlier models.
Camera. I think that the biggest improvement in the iPhone 7 is the camera. The camera works better in low light, with an f/1.8 aperture that allows 50% more light into the camera sensor than the iPhone 6s. The new camera also captures colors more accurately. And the iPhone 7 camera includes optical image stabilization, a feature that was previously included only on the Plus model. It also has a better and brighter flash. And while the main camera improvements are on the back, the front-facing camera is also improved, so you'll look better in a FaceTime video conference, and you can take better selfies.
On the larger iPhone 7 Plus, Apple takes advantage of the larger device by adding a second camera. And while the first camera has a 28mm lens like the iPhone 7, the second camera has a 56mm telephoto lens. This means that if you want to zoom, you are no longer limited to a digital zoom (which makes things larger but at a lower quality) and instead you have what amounts to a 2x optical zoom. And while the iPhone 7 will let you use a 5x digital zoom, the 2x telephoto lens on the Plus means that you can get what amounts to a 10x zoom. Once you go all the way up to 10x, the quality of the image will suffer. But it will still look much better than the iPhone 7. And if you are just looking for a 2x zoom, the iPhone 7 Plus camera will look fantastic, much better than the iPhone 7.
Later this year in a software update, Apple will also give the iPhone 7 Plus the ability to use both cameras at the same time to create the illusion of depth-of-field, a bokeh effect that will allow a person in the center of your photo to remain in perfect focus while the background is blurred. This effect is common on SLR cameras with much larger lenses, and I'll be curious to see how it looks on an iPhone 7 Plus considering that the iPhone is essentially faking the effect, although it is using two cameras so it is not like you are just applying a cheesy Instagram filter.
Home Button. The Home Button on the iPhone 7 is no longer a button. It is just a surface that can detect when you are putting pressure on it, and which produces a slight click to make you think that you have just pressed a button. Apple does something similar on the Apple Watch and the "button" on the MacBook laptop. In the Settings app, you can adjust how it responds to your touch. I'll have to try it to see what I think, but my initial reaction is that this isn't really an improvement or a disadvantage; it is just a change that was necessary to make the iPhone more water resistant.
Audio changes. If you ever play music, podcasts, movies, etc. on your iPhone just using the built-in speaker, then you'll really like the iPhone 7 because it produces sound out of the top and the bottom — or, if you have your iPhone turned on its side in landscape mode to watch a video, sound out of the left and right side. Stereo sound. Thus, the iPhone 7 is much louder when using the built-in speaker, and has a more pleasing stereo sound.
If you want to use a headphone, you will no longer be able to use a built-in headphone jack. Instead, the iPhone 7 only works with headphones plugged in to the Lightning jack. The iPhone 7 comes with Apple's Lightning EarPods. If you want to use traditional headphones, the iPhone also comes with a headphone jack / Lightning dongle. You can buy additional dongles from Apple for $9, making this the cheapest Apple hardware product that I can ever remember Apple selling.
There are several reasons that Apple decided to remove the headphone jack. It lets that space be used for other purposes (such as a larger battery) and it helps to make the iPhone more water resistant. But the main reason is that Apple thinks that the future of headphones is wireless. Which leads me to...
Apple is removing the headphone jack because it thinks that the future is wireless. To show what the future looks like, Apple is releasing its own wireless headphones called AirPods, which will be available next month for $159. You don't need an iPhone 7 to use them; you can also use an older iPhone model as long as it is running iOS 10.
The new AirPods look like just the tip of an Apple headphone without any of the cords. A microphone is located at the bottom of each stem. Put them in at least one ear and the sound from your iPhone automatically starts playing through the AirPods. When you have AirPods in both ears and you remove one of them — for example, because you want to hear something or talk to someone — the iPhone automatically pauses. Put the AirPod back in your ear to resume playing. Or, if you are listening to music and you remove both AirPods, then music stops playing in the AirPods and starts playing through your iPhone speakers.
By the way, you don't have to use both AirPods at once. You can just use one at a time, perhaps when you are taking a call or listening to a podcast and don't care about stereo.
There are no buttons on the AirPods, but they can sense when you double-tap one of them, which activates Siri. You can tell Siri to skip tracks, change the volume, etc. but there are no buttons on the AirPods to manually perform those functions (unlike Apple's traditional wired headphones which had a play/pause/FF/RW button on the cord).
The cord always gets in the way when I use traditional headphones, and for that reason I've been mostly using Bluetooth headphones for the last year. The biggest problem with traditional wireless Bluetooth headphones is that they often don't work that well. They can lose the connection, the sound sometimes stutters, etc. Apple says that it solved this problem by placing a chip (Apple calls it the W1) inside of each AirPod. Based on the initial reviews from folks who tried them yesterday, the sound quality of the AirPods is supposed to be quite good. If it all works as well as Apple says, it will be fantastic to have wireless headphones that really work well.
AidPods will last five hours before the charge runs out (or two hours if you are talking on the phone), and you recharge them by putting them in their carrying case. The carrying case has 24 hour battery, so you can recharge the AirPods almost five times in the case. Plug the case into any Lightning port and both the case and the AirPods recharge. It looks like a great solution for charging.
The new version of the Apple Watch is called the Apple Watch Series 2. Additionally, Apple will continue to sell the original Apple Watch with one revision — a faster processor — under the name Apple Watch Series 1.
Faster. One of my biggest complaints about the original Apple Watch is that it was slow to perform many tasks. The watchOS 3 software update will use software to make all Apple Watches faster, but the big hardware change this year is a new processor that makes the watch 50% faster, plus a new GPU that makes graphics twice as fast, plus a dual-core processor. Even if you get the cheapest aluminum model of the Apple Watch called the Series 1, you get the speed increase associated with the new processor. So every new Apple Watch sold will be faster. That's great news.
Brighter. The screen on the original Apple Watch is pretty good, but it can be hard to see if it is really bright outside. The 2016 Apple Watch has a display that is twice as bright as the original Apple Watch, making it even easier to see the display when you are outside during the day.
Running and Swimming. Apple knows that people like to be active with an Apple Watch, and made it easier to do so in two ways. First, the new Apple Watch now includes a GPS so it can track your run (or hike, or bike ride, etc.), even if your iPhone isn't in your pocket. Second, you can now go swimming with the new Apple Watch because it is waterproof. The Apple website says: "Apple Watch Series 2 has a water resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010. This means that it may be used for shallow-water activities like swimming in a pool or ocean. However, Apple Watch Series 2 should not be used for scuba diving, waterskiing, or other activities involving high-velocity water or submersion below shallow depth." The only part of the new Apple Watch that isn't closed off to water is the speaker, since you need to have a pocket of air to produce sound. But after a swim (or after you press the water icon in the control panel) you can spin the digital crown on the side of the watch and the speaker will activate to blow any remaining water out of the watch. Neat trick. If you enjoy participating in Ironman triathlons where you run, bike and swim, this new Apple Watch has your name written all over it.
Special versions. When the Apple Watch debuted, Apple announced a single special version: a very expensive Apple Watch called the Edition which featured a gold case. This year, the gold case is gone, but the name remains. The new Edition is one-tenth the price of the gold Apple Watch, and instead of gold, this year's Edition includes a white ceramic finish. Apple says that the ceramic makes the new Edition four times harder than the stainless steel version of the Apple Watch.
Another special version this year is the Apple Watch Nike+. It is a Series 2 aluminum Apple Watch that comes with a few special features, most notably a Nike-branded sport band that has lots of holes in the band, but also some special watch faces.
And Apple is continuing to sell a Hermès version of the Apple Watch, which now gets you the stainless steel Series 2 Apple Watch along with a special leather band made by Hermès, plus a special Hermès watch face.
Price. To place the new Apple Watch prices in historical context, remember that the original Apple Watch cost $349 for the 38mm Sport version with an aluminum case, or an extra $50 for the 42mm version; The Apple Watch with stainless steel sold for $549 for the 38mm version and $50 more for the 42mm version.
Now we have new prices along with the new "Series" name. And there are so many different price points that it can all get somewhat confusing.
The cheapest Apple Watch is now $80 cheaper. The 38mm Apple Watch Series 1 will cost $269, and for an additional $30 you can get the 42mm Apple Watch Series 1.
If you want all of the new Apple Watch features (brighter screen, GPS, swim-proof) in the aluminum model, then you'll want the Series 2. Apple is no longer using the "Sport" name with the Apple Watch, and instead just refers to that as the aluminum model. The new aluminum Series 2 model starts at $369 for the 38mm model, and is $30 more for the 42mm model.
Thus, if you want the aluminum case, the Series 1 is either $80 less (38mm) or $100 less (42mm) than the original Apple Watch, and the Series 2 is either $20 more (38mm) or the same price (42mm).
If you want the stainless steel case, there is no Series 1. Every model of the 2016 stainless steel Apple Watch is the Series 2, with all of the new features. And the price remains the same as before: $549 for the 38mm version, and $50 more for the 42mm version.
All of these prices assume that you get the version of the watch with Apple's cheapest bands — the Sport band or the Nylon band. If you want any of the fancier bands, you'll pay more. My advice for new Apple Watch owners remains the same as last year. I encourage you to get the cheapest version with a Sport band or Nylon band. You'll want to have a cheaper band for use when working out, getting your hands dirty in the backyard, and for the new Series 2 models for when swimming. Then buy the more expensive band separately, because that way you have the ability to return the more expansive band for a refund and/or to swap it out with another expansive band if you don't like the original one that you bought.
If you are interested in the Nike+ version of the Apple Watch, the prices are essentially the same as the aluminum versions of the Apple Watch. The Hermès models costs between $1149 and $1499 depending upon which leather band you select. And the new Apple Watch Edition with the white ceramic case costs $1249, or $50 more if you want the 42mm version.
Sometimes Apple updates its products with features that seem to be aimed directly at lawyers and other professionals. For example, when Apple introduced the 12.9" iPad Pro, it seemed directly aimed at folks trying to get work done with an iPad such as lawyers looking at documents, exhibits, etc. Even the 9.7" version of the iPad Pro is a great productivity tool, with support for the Apple Pencil and a speedy processor. Yesterday's updates to the iPhone and Apple Watch are, for the most part, not those types of updates. Sure, the increased speed and better screen on both products will improve productivity, and the better battery life on the iPhone could be a huge boost for many professionals, but most of the hardware improvements announced yesterday will be appreciated most when you step away from billable hours and begin your personal life.
But that isn't meant to take away from the improvements. These are much better products. The new Apple Watch Series 2 will be great if you want assistance and motivation when you exercise — especially if you like to run without carrying your iPhone or you like to swim. The new camera on the iPhone 7 will improve the quality of your photographs, especially if you get the Plus model and want the ability to zoom. These look like amazing devices that folks will love, and I cannot wait to try them myself.
If you already use an iPhone 6s or an Apple Watch, these are not essential upgrades, although many will upgrade anyway to take advantage of the new features. But if you are using an iPhone 6 or older, the iPhone 7 is a substantial improvement that you will really appreciate. If you don't yet own an Apple Watch, now is a perfect time to get one and learn for yourself why folks like me love it so much.
And finally, if you want to see a very quick recap of Apple's new announcements in less than two minutes, Apple released a video yesterday afternoon called Don't Blink, which contains an ultra-quick summary of the keynote. Apple has never released a video like this before, and it is fun: