Apple refreshed its iPhone, Watch and AirPods product lines at an online event on Wednesday, as well as introducing a new Ultra watch for activity in challenging environments.
Apple Watch Ultra is designed to work in extremely cold and hot environments, as well as under 130 feet of water. It is housed in a sturdy titanium case and its face is made of a sturdy sapphire crystal.
The Ultra also has a programmable “Action” button, an 85-decibel emergency siren, and its controls are designed for use with gloves. There are three microphones for voice call clarity, even in windy conditions.
Apple Watch Ultra Programmable Action Button (Image: Apple)
Cellular is built into the Ultra, which has a battery life of 36 hours on a single charge, though Apple has promised that will be increased to 60 hours with new battery optimization software available this fall.
The Ultra also supports dual-frequency GPS, and with the Dive Plus app it can be turned into a dive computer.
The Ultra will retail for $799 and will be available on September 23rd.
“I’m a diver and I’ve owned numerous dive watches that cost over $1,000,” said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative strategiestechnology consulting firm in Campbell, California.
“Here you get a dive watch and everything, plus a cellular connection for $799,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s a really good deal.”
“It will be a big hit with extreme sports enthusiasts and divers,” he added.
Ross Rubin, Principal Analyst at Grid Studya consumer technology consulting firm in New York, called the Ultra a “statement product.”
“This shows that the Apple Watch can be used in harsh environments by people engaged in extreme activities,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“It’s not something mainstream people need, but you can see how some of the technology, like the action button, could filter down to future iterations of other models,” he added.
Apple also launched its Series 8 Apple Watch at its pre-recorded event. The watch features a new temperature sensor that can be used by women to track ovulation. Ovulation is usually measured with a thermometer and a diary. The new watch makes this task much easier and convenient by providing automatic retrospective ovulation estimates.
“Apple Watch has evolved into a digital health wearable,” Mark N. Vena, president and chief analyst at SmartTechResearch in San Jose, California, told TechNewsWorld.
The watch, like the new iPhones, also has a new crash detection feature. When a crash is detected, the watch will automatically contact emergency services, provide the location of the crash, and notify emergency contacts on the watch.
To create the feature, Apple added two new motion sensors to the Series 8, an improved three-axis gyroscope and a high-G-force accelerometer. The accelerometer can measure up to 256 Gs, allowing it to detect the extreme impacts of a crash.
Crash Detection uses an advanced algorithm to combine sensors and a new, more powerful accelerometer and gyroscope in Apple Watch to detect and deliver car crash warnings. If the user does not respond after a 10-second countdown, the device will call emergency services. (Image credit: Apple)
The feature only works when the user is in a moving vehicle and collects data only around the time of a possible crash.
“Apple Watch isn’t just about health, it’s about safety,” Bajarin noted.
Series 8 watches have 18 hours of battery life, but with a new low power mode feature, battery life can be extended to 36 hours.
The Series 8 will be available on September 16. The GPS version is priced at $399 and the cellular version at $499.
During its online event, Apple also unveiled the iPhone 14 Pro with a 6.1-inch display and the Pro Max with a 6.7-inch display.
The Pro models, as well as the 14 and 14-plus models, support a new Emergency SOS service via satellite. New iPhone models have special antennas built into them so they can send text messages to high-flying satellites.
To help with the connection, the phone’s software shows the user where to point their phone to connect to the satellite and stay connected while the satellite is moving.
The iPhone 14 series introduces Emergency SOS via satellite. The feature allows users to send messages to emergency services when cellular or Wi-Fi coverage is unavailable. (Image credit: Apple)
Due to the narrow bandwidth involved in satellite communication, Apple created a custom short text compression algorithm to reduce the average message size by a factor of three.
The satellite service will initially be limited to the United States and Canada, where it will be offered free of charge for two years.
“The satellite phone feature is going to be of tremendous value to a lot of people,” Vena said.
“It would have been the perfect phone for Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway,” he joked. “If there was an iPhone 14, though, it would be a very short film.”
Bajarin said Apple is forging a new path toward personal safety and security. “It will be a bigger part of their DNA in the future,” he maintains.
“Satellite features in iPhone 14 Pro set a new precedent in smartphones,” he added.
Apple has also updated the cameras in the new professional models. The primary camera on the back of the device has a 48-megapixel sensor with support for a fast f/1.78 lens, while the front camera has a 12MP sensor with an f/1.9 lens. The main camera also supports the ProRaw format.
The Pro models also have a new chip, the A16. “With the A16, Apple has the most powerful smartphone camera on the market right now,” said Bajarin.
“The 48-megapixel and ProRaw capabilities bring the iPhone 14 Pro series much closer to a true DSLR,” he added.
Vena noted that Apple is pushing beyond parity with single-lens reflex cameras. “It’s clear that Apple doesn’t want the camera in their phone to be equivalent to a DSLR, but they want it to be superior in many ways to a DSLR,” he noted.
The front-facing camera upgrade in the new iPhones represents another change in Apple’s thinking about phone cameras, he added. “It used to be that the rear camera was the most important camera,” he said. “Now they see the front and rear cameras as equally important.”
iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max feature the first 48MP camera on an iPhone. (Image credit: Apple)
Apple has made great strides in video stabilization with the Pro and Max models. “You can literally shoot video in motion with very little image shake,” noted Rubin.
The often maligned notch on the front of the Pro and Pro Max models has been transformed into a dynamic notification center. “They’ve turned it into a benefit, not a detriment,” Rubin said.
iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus will be available in five colors: midnight, blue, starlight, purple and (product) red. iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will be available in four colors: space black, silver, gold and deep purple.
iPhone Pro 14 will sell for $999; Pro Max for $1099. iPhone 14 will sell for $799; 14-plus for $899. All will be available on September 16th.
Apple also unveiled a new version of its AirPods Pro with a new H2 chip, longer battery life and noise-canceling technology that’s twice as effective as its predecessor at blocking out noise.
The headphones’ “transparency” mode has also been improved, filtering out some of the distracting noise normally heard when noise cancellation is turned off. “I haven’t seen any other headset do that,” noted Rubin. “It addresses one of the shortcomings of the transparency regime. You let the whole world in, including the harsh sounds.
The new AirPods Pro will go on sale on September 23 for $249.
AirPods Pro deliver upgrades to transparency mode, spatial audio and convenience features, while canceling up to twice as much noise as its predecessor. A new low-distortion audio driver and custom amplifier deliver richer bass and crystal-clear sound. A new ultra-small ear tip can provide a better fit for more users. (Image credit: Apple)
“Most of these devices are just upgrades,” says Jim McGregor, founder and principal analyst at Tirias Researcha high-tech research and consulting firm in Phoenix.
“The only one that has a new usage pattern is the Apple Watch Ultra,” he continued. “Some of the features they’re touting in the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus have been on Android phones for three or four generations.”
“It’s getting harder and harder for Apple and everyone else to justify these annual upgrades,” he added. “I’ll give credit to Apple though. I am happy to see that they are offering these products in a reasonable price range and not trying to offer a $2000 smartphone.