The annual Apple announcement always marks the passage of yet another year for those of us in tech — and is also a reminder of the new, shiny iOS features that my current iPhone now lacks. Each September, we come to expect a flurry of new products, features and upgrades, and this event didn’t disappoint. If it was only a bit long. Which is why we’ve spent a lot of time poring through it and paring it down to just the news we think you’ll care about if you’re a consumer trying to figure out just what you might be interested in from Apple that’s coming out soon. Especially if you’re a parent.
Lots of fun stuff was revealed yesterday, including what I like to refer to as a mega iPad (really called an iPad Pro), accessories for said iPad, and of course, major updates to the tried and true iPhone. Here are the new products and features that we’re most excited about.
The new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus
This is probably the news most of our readers will be excited about, since sooooo many of you are iPhone users! This is an upgrade year (hence the announcement of the iPhone 6S and not the iPhone 7), which means that if you have an iPhone 6, you probably won’t feel the need to rush out and get the newest, slickest model. That said, there are some notable updates to the phone that definitely makes it worth considering for anyone with an iPhone 5 or older.
First, there are now four finishes, the latest including a brand new rose gold which I can safely say Kristen is flipping out over.
Then there’s protection! Parents will especially appreciate the new Ion-X glass that encases the front. Apparently, it’s the strongest in the industry and perfect for when toddlers and kids are constantly grabbing at your phone (though I would still recommend a protective case).
Related: Otterbox Resurgence finally blends top-notch protection with a battery charging case
The new phones also comes with LTE technology that’s reportedly twice as fast as the current version, as well as much faster Wi-Fi connectivity, which we impatient folks will all like. And as expected, major upgrades to the phone’s overall speed and performance are coming thanks to a 64-bit processor. In people terms, that means it’ll be up to 70-90 percent faster.
Huge plus, especially when you have a cranky kid in the backseat who doesn’t have any patience to wait for her drawing app to load.
But the main draw for lots of us will be the ability all this power gives us for multitasking. The new features of the iPhone 6S I highlighted below will make it even easier to do more things at once, more easily and quickly.
3D Touch is one of the coolest new features of the phone, making the whole nature of touch and tap more intuitive than before. If you’ve ever played around with an Apple Watch, you’ll know just what it means.
The kind of pressure you put on your screen actually allows you to dictate various tasks on your phone which, wow. It may be easier said than done when you’re making dinner with one hand and have a toddler clutching your leg, but just pressing a little harder to trigger an action is likely something that you’ll easily get used to.
The mechanics will stay the same, in terms of tapping, swiping and pinching, but 3D Touch also features Peek and Pop. Yeah, it sounds like a kids’ educational app, but it’s just a more involved way to multitask.
Hold down your finger over an email and Peek lets you bring up a preview of the message without fully opening it. Wow, do we love that!
It also allows you to preview an address, for example, that was sent via text, directly on top of iMessage, without having to quit out and go to a maps app. Anyone who has driven around trying to find the $#%# location for a birthday party can relate to what a huge improvement that will be.
3D Touch also uses what Apple is calling Quick Actions. Fewer taps basically give you shortcuts like messaging someone right away or instantly taking a selfie with your kids.
The new 12 MP iPhone 6S Camera
The camera, ah, the camera. Always a huge part of the Apple Event and a major reason why so many of us are can’t ever leave home without our iPhones.
The new iPhone 6S Camera will feature 12 MPs, an increase of 50%. The Retina Flash has also been dramatically improved, lighting up 3X brighter than before, so those photos of the overnight campouts in the backyard and the fireworks on July 4th will all be more than sufficiently lit. Not that we totally recommend flash photography for iPhones, which still leaves a lot to be desired. But we’re looking forward to seeing when and how this works well.
Related: Tips from a pro for taking better family vacation photos.
The iPhone 6S video functionality gets a huge upgrade too, offering quality that’s 4x higher than traditional HD video. Whoa. Plus, there’s image stabilization for photos and video, which is something parents will more than appreciate when capturing your kid’s first bike ride as you chase her down the street.
New feature: Live Photos
The most jaw-dropping part of the camera update to me is a feature called Live Photos. As the name implies, Live Photos adds sound and movement to still photos; simply by pressing anywhere on the image, you’ll display the moment just before and after the photo was taken. Another wow.
You can see the demo of this on the link to the Apple site above, but it essentially turns your photos into 2-second movie clips. Not sure at this point what the difference is between a Live Photo and a 2-second movie clip, but I do love the idea of pressing on a photo and seeing it come to life.
Pricing and the new upgrade program
Oh yeah. Prices. Always the one downside for those of you ready to upgrade to Apple phones or make the big move from another platform. But this upgrade isn’t bad at all: new phones will be available for $199 to $399 for the 6S, and $299 and up for the 6S Plus
However for the first time, Apple is offering their own iPhone Upgrade Program which essentially lets you pick your carrier and pay monthly for a leased phone. This is a huge huge deal, we think, especially considering the relative cost of buying a “non-disposable” iPhone.
Pricing starts at around $32/month for the 16 GB model (though we always recommend you go with the biggest memory you can afford; those 16G run out quickly if you like your apps).
I’d need to have a calculator to really figure out what the costs come to, but it sounds similar to the process of leasing a car; if you’re always keen on having a newer model, this may be a great option for you.
Pre-ordering starts on Sept. 12 and the new iPhone 6 and 6S will be available on Sept. 25. More to come on our personal experiences when quite a few members of own staff upgrade their iPhones, no doubt.
There’s no iPad Air 3 this year, but rather, a bigger, heftier and more robust iPad, otherwise known as the iPad Pro. And it’s impressive.
This hulked up iPad wants to take over your laptop as the only mobile computing option you need. In addition to the huge 12.9-inch long screen (compare with the 9.4 x 6.6 screen size of the iPad Air), the Pro version has 5.6 million pixels — which, well, that’s more than the MacBook Pro with retina display. Pretty crazy, right? Plus the graphics claim to be faster than 90% of PCs on the market.
The graphics look amazing, but the size is definitely a consideration and could be a boon or a bust considering on how you’re planning on using your tablet. If you want to keep an iPad around for the kids to use, I’m guessing this isn’t your best bet. The size alone makes it more unwieldy for smaller hands and my feeling is it’s just more computer than a young child needs.
That being said, if you’re looking for a lighter, more portable laptop replacement, you may have found one, especially with the fun accessories for the iPad Pro that were announced.
Like…an Apple Keyboard!
Yes, Apple is offering its own magnetic keyboard sized for you to attach it to your new iPad. Though, as soon as it was announced, we saw the barrage of Microsoft users and reporters on social media snickering at the fact that this has been part of the Surface Pro 3 for a while now. So Apple clearly isn’t above seeing what other manufacturers do that works, and taking a digital page from their playbooks.
We also imagine third-party manufacturers, as always, will have their own keyboards and accessories which sometimes can be superior to what Apple offers. (See also: earbuds, power cords, lightning chargers.)
Social media was also buzzing about the Apple Pencil, a new stylus that designers, illustrators and other pros will go nuts for. Even if Steve Jobs always hated the idea — though the Verge has a great perspective on why this is different.
You can imagine kids having a field day with this new stylus, but unless there’s a slot in the iPad where this tucks in, good luck keeping track of it after day four. Especially at $99, something to consider if you’re a parent.
iPad Pro Pricing
Hold onto your hats, because outfitting yourself with a top-of-the-line iPad Pro ($799-1,079) , the keyboard ($169) and pencil ($99) as a whole will set you back as much as $1,300.
Yes, definitely pricey. But if the new tablet really does everything it says, it could certainly be a laptop killer, and in fact, can be more affordable than a new souped-up MacBook Air.
The iPad Pro will come in Space Gray, Gold and Silver colors and you can grab yours in November, 2015.
One of the event’s highlights was the announcement of the very new and improved Apple TV. Based on what we saw, it certainly the old Apple TV to shame. In fact, it could present some serious competition to the Roku or Fire TV you may be using now.
What I like right off the bat is better integration with existing iOS devices in your household and more universality on the platform. In other words, Apple households? It may be time to consider an Apple TV.
Related: Apple TV vs Roku vs Amazon Fire TV: A streaming media device smackdown
Apple TV Watching
Not only is it much more powerful and faster than the previous model, but Siri will play a major role in the new Apple TV. Voice search is nothing new — we’ve already seen it on the Roku 3 and Amazon Fire TV — but Siri will also respond to queries like what did he just say? and rewind the last few seconds of what you’re watching. How perfect is that for parents with screaming toddlers? (Ha.)
They’re also borrowing one of the features we love best about Roku: A universal search that covers each of your streaming services at once, like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO NOW. That will definitely make family movie night a whole lot easier than going from platform to platform, going, where’s that new Pixar movie again?
Looking for a great kids’ movie? Ask Siri. How about a romantic comedy to watch after the kids go to bed? Siri again to the rescue. Just ask the specific questions.
Now we admit we personally have our fair share of gripes using Siri — Liz’s jokes that her daughter Thalia is still fall ya, all ya, falla, or at best, Dalia, even after years of Siri dictation — but it seems like she (Siri, not Thalia) has gotten a major upgrade and we hope she’ll be much more responsive, and more importantly, accurate.
Siri will also answer more mundane questions, like what’s the weather? Or what was the score of last night’s Red Sox game? And yes, this is just like voice-activated Google search, similar to what Amazon Echo offers. But now Apple TV fans will have it too.
The remote control of the new Apple TV is also a big selling point. Although not actually big, since one of our complaints is that it’s so darn easy to misplace! The remote doesn’t seem to be getting larger, however improvements include a touch surface on the remote that will let you control your Apple TV in a much more iOS-y way than before.
Using touch and taps, like you’re used to doing with your other devices, the remote will let you navigate easily through the enhanced multimedia platform, and frankly, we’re exited to try it out.
Gaming on Apple TV
Gaming has never been a strong selling point for most of us, when it comes to streaming devices, because let’s be honest, a PS4 or Wii or XBox Kinect is going to deliver far more of what our kids are looking for. However the new Apple TV could possibly be a game changer for this category.
(I’m sorry, I had to.)
The processing speed and graphics will make games look incredible, and Apple seems to be putting a big emphasis on game variety, even referencing major titles like Guitar Hero and Disney Infinity coming to the platform. If Apple has one thing, it’s relationships with pretty much every developer so this could be interesting.
It could also be a viable way to convert gamers over from Xbox and Playstation to Apple TV, all with the goal of standardizing everything on one platform across all Apple devices. It may come down to the overall experience, including controllers. However the fact that iPhones, iPads and iPad Touches can also serve as gaming controllers — and that they offer multi-player games — makes it even more appealing as an all-in-one entertainment hub.
Summed up in one parent POV: You mean I don’t need four different consoles on my TV stand anymore? Hooray!
Our tip though is that if Apple just adds Minecraft to the arsenal, and we can think of about 400 million kids you’ll have as instant customers.
Pricing and Avails
Apple TV will be available with 32GB memory for $149, or 64GB for $199, and will be available in late October.
Other Apple Stuff You Might Be Interested In
I wanted to point out that there was a brief mention of an iPad Mini 4, which seemed to get lost in the iPad Pro news, which could be a popular holiday purchase. And for you Apple Watch wearers or wannabe-wearers, there will along with new watchbands (three from Hermes!) and finishes including a rose gold finish for the Sport model which is very appealing.
With the new products also comes the release of a new operating system. iOS 9 will be available next week on Sept. 16th and we look forward to sharing the details when we get our hands on it. Highlights include a smarter Siri, lots of multitasking capabilities for iPad, very cool photo improvements, built-in apps like the compelling News app shown here, and — let us pray — a longer battery life.
When it comes to all the news that shook out from yesterday’s (very, very long) Apple Event we think the iPhone 6S and Apple TV are going to have the most appeal to parents.
If you’re in the market for a new laptop, it may be worth considering the iPad Pro, which could be a good homework helper for kids. But from a pure grab-and-go tablet standpoint (like if you use your tablet for reading on your commute), or for younger kids who use the apps, you may probably better off sticking with an older, smaller model.
The 3D Touch and multitasking features of the new phone, along with the major camera improvements are what is going to make a difference in your daily love of the iPhone and will be a great upgrade from your iPhone 4 or 5. Is it worth plunking down the cash if you already have an iPhone 6? Maybe not, unless you get a great trade-in deal. (And by the way, we love the new lease-style financing plan for families.) I think you’ll see a world of difference in this new model.
And of course, we can’t wait to see what’s in store with the new iOS 9 next week.
In all, more incredible innovation coming from Apple, and though we’re not surprised, we’re still amazed. Year after year. They just somehow manage to nail the “I want that so badly” mindset with every single new release.