This year’s iPhone 6S event was more packed than most: in addition to the new iPhones we also got a new Apple TV, an enormous iPad and a pencil. But what were the highlights of the keynote event? These are our picks.
1 Beats 1 is terrible for pre-show music
With hindsight it’s obvious that Apple would use its own Beats 1 station to soundtrack the pre-show period, but on the live stream it was unintentionally hilarious: the sound of Swindle bellowing “MAD TING!” “UK REPRESENT!” over footage of squares shuffling into their seats and prodding iPhones had us in tears. We suspect that next year Apple might stick with a pre-recorded playlist rather than broadcast Zane Lowe live.
2 The Apple Watch isn’t a toy
Demos are the keynote equivalent of your favourite band’s crap song, the bit where sensible people stock up on drinks, but this one was different: the health-tech Airstrip demo showed the Apple Watch as a genuinely useful tool for doctors and patients. It was a strong reminder that wearable tech isn’t just about fashion and fitness: in the right hands, or on the right wrists, it can be life changing. Although of course it is about fashion too, as demonstrated by the new Hermes accessories and watch face, which will be reassuringly expensive.
3 The PC is dead, again
Seriously. The iPad Pro is Apple’s “vision for the future of personal computing”, and we think that for many people the need to buy a MacBook or MacBook Air just disappeared. It’s pretty obvious where Apple’s consumer devices are heading now: as iOS gets better and Apple’s silicon more impressive, the lines between iPads and Macs are going to get awfully blurry. If you don’t need to run, say, Logic Pro X or Adobe’s Pro apps, do you really need a Mac now?
4 If you see a stylus, they blew it
Oh, Twitter, if we had a penny for every time somebody threw out Steve Jobs’ stylus quote last night we’d have enough to buy an awful lot of Apple Pencils. Slagging off things Apple would go on to make was one of Jobs’ most entertaining hobbies, and if the Pencil is as good as the videos show then it’s a welcome addition to what iPads can do - albeit a fairly niche addition right now. And you’ve got to admire Apple’s decision to avoid a Samsung-style wrong-way-in stylus disaster by not providing anywhere to put the Pencil. Down the back of the sofa it goes.
5 Apple is top at trolling
You unveil a tablet whose key message is “hey, Microsoft! The Surface sucks! Here’s how to do it properly!”. Who better to have on stage showing off your alternative than… Microsoft! As Microsoft demoed Office and talked about how the iPad Pro makes it such a great productivity tool, somewhere Steve Ballmer was turning green and throwing chairs around an office. Old-time Apple fans would have enjoyed the irony too: it wasn’t so long ago that seeing Office on the Mac during a keynote was a sign of how much trouble Apple was in.
6 The Apple TV is great… in America
The future of TV is apps, says Apple. “Oh, really?” the rest of the world says, swapping between Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Demand Five and Sky Go. The new Apple TV looks lovely, but it really should have been here a few years back: there was something rather odd about a keynote expecting whoops at the prospect of Full HD and animated screensavers on their televisions. And as ever, it’s overwhelmingly US-focused. Are we getting iPlayer, Apple? The good news is that tvOS is really just iOS with TV bits, so developers should find it easy to port their iOS apps across.
7 Siri’s got smarter
We’re taking this with a hefty pinch of salt - on the Apple Watch, Siri ignores us more often than not or garbles our commands - but in America at least Siri’s got an awful lot cleverer. Siri doesn’t just control the Apple TV; she can understand questions such as “what did she say” to rewind and turn on captions, or “who’s in this?” to show the cast list. This is just brilliant for anybody who wishes their partner talked more during movies.
8 There’s more to megapixels than megapixels
This bit of the keynote was probably a bit dull for many, but the description of how Apple’s new camera sensor works was important: upping the megapixels on a sensor can introduce “crosstalk”, interference that produces visible noise known as artefacts, and Apple has taken great pains to reduce that. If you’re keen on cameras that should have you pretty excited about what you’ll be able to do with the iPhone 6S/6S Plus camera.
9 Force Touch is no more
There was always something off about the name Force Touch, so its rebrand as the meaningless but less sinister 3D Touch is welcome. It looks pretty good too, and while Apple’s really just bringing right-clicking to iOS it’s done it in a simple and apparently valuable way. Unlike what we’ve seen from other firms this 3D Touch isn’t a gimmick either: it’s baked right into the OS for every iPhone 6S/6S Plus, which means developers will have a lot of potential users very quickly. And the demo featured Craig Federighi gurning and footage of a dancing dog, which is never bad.
10 Apple’s taste in music is still awful
No “MAD TING! UK REPRESENT!” for the special musical guest: despite excitable rumours that Taylor Swift was going to break Apple’s track record of bringing on boring musical guests and a last-minute rumour that 1 Direction were going to take the stage in some sort of trolling exercise, the guest was One Republic. You know, the band that did that song that went… er… okay, the band that did that other song with Timbaland, the one that went… no, sorry. It’s gone.