by Joe Lonergan & David Redmond
Apple held its much anticipated annual product launch event ‘Wonderlust’ on 12th September during which it introduced its latest collection of iPhones and watches. The key highlights include newly launched iPhone 15 models, Apple Watch Series 9, Apple Watch Ultra 2, and AirPods Pro 2. To the delight of many, USB-C has finally made its debut in both the iPhone and AirPods.
We’ll begin with the Apple Watch, just as Tim Cook did during his presentation, as he kicked things off by unveiling some fresh features for the wearable device. These included:
A new S9 chip. It is reported to be 30% faster graphics with a new neural engine, but the same 18-hour battery life in the Series 8. We were slightly disappointed that it didn’t get an improvement in battery life.
Siri Improvements. Some Siri requests can be now processed offline, so if you are out of range of any type of mobile data signal you can say things like “Siri start outdoor walk” or set a waypoint to help find your way back from a trek or along walk. Siri will soon be able to access health data such as step count and period tracker. But most interestingly Siri may become better at dictation because of this new on-board capability.
Brighter Display. The display will be even brighter on both new Apple watches, which may help some people with low vision.
Double Tap. Apple has also added a new feature called Double Tap. It’s not the double tap that most of us are familiar with, it is a new gesture that you can do by tapping your index finger and thumb together twice to answer calls, end calls and activate the primary button on most apps and play and pause media.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in graphite, silver, pink, starlight, midnight, gold, and stainless-steel models. Apple will no longer be making leather or silicone straps for their watches; this is to support their move to use more recycled materials.
The Apple Watch Ultra 2
It was announced that this will have the brightest display ever with 3000 nits and can dim down to 1nit for those situations like when you are in bed or at the cinema, but again the same battery life as its predecessor, 36 hours. But some good news is the price is reported to fall by €100 down to €899.
Both watches gain the new ultra-wideband chip found in the iPhone 15. And because of this, your watch can now precisely locate your phone if you ping it. It can also pop-up playback controls or media suggestions if you move near your HomePod.
Both new watches get storage increases, from 32GB now up to 64GB. We didn’t hear of any changes to the Apple Watch SE, but some new features will come to older watches with the incoming software upgrades in the next week.
AirPods Pro 2 2nd generation
AirPods Pro got a few small upgrades, the main one being the charging case got USBC charging. So, what’s so great about that I hear you ask? Well, it allows you to charge your AirPods from any of the iPhone 15 lineups, going to be a handy feature if you are caught short while on a long journey and you desperately need to get some charge into your amazing AirPods Pro 2. It is just another way to charge your AirPods, to add to charging it from the wall socket, from a Magsafe cable, or my favourite, the Apple Watch charging puck.
There was not a lot said about the sound improvements but since it has been announced that there is going to be a new adaptive audio feature that blends transparency mode and noise cancellation depending on your environment and background noises like office chatter or the hoovering, the background sounds are reduced to increase your awareness.
Conversation awareness is a new feature that recognises that you are having a conversation and increases the sound of people’s voices while reducing background noises, which may be useful in environments like a café or Deli counter.
The new case is also more dust resistant for the more adventurous types or people who do manual or building work that will involve lots of dust. It is also futureproofed for lossless audio for when the Vision Pro glasses come out, but we do not think that is going to be any time soon in this country.
Next up was the part of the event that probably had most people interested, which was the iPhone 15. I think it’s fair to say most of the new features have been rumoured here, but let’s look at what we’re getting.
The iPhone 15 is getting a few new features with a lot of carrying over from last year’s 14 Pro. One such feature is the Dynamic Island which is making its way onto the 15 entry-level model for the first time, it can expand and contract at the top of the screen depending on what information it’s showing, such as caller information or a timer. It’s going to be interesting to see how this works for VoiceOver users but it’s a cool feature nonetheless.
For low-vision users, the screen is much brighter this year going up to 2,000 nits. That’s double the brightness of the previous generation. As usual, there are two models, the iPhone 15 and 15 Plus. The 15 Plus has a bigger screen with Apple specifically mentioning this might be beneficial for those who use larger text sizes. The 15 now steals the 48-megapixel camera from the 14 Pro which might be beneficial for those using OCR apps or the Magnifier and if you use the phone heavily, you’ll be happy to know that it still has all-day battery life.
The iPhone 15 is also getting the ultra-wide band upgrades from Apple Watch. In a feature that could be great for blind people, you’ll now be able to find friends in the Find My app using precision finding helping you find them in a crowd this does require you both to have an iPhone 15 but it’s an interesting new feature.
Following recent EU mandates, the iPhone is transitioning to USB C and so are the AirPods and EarPods so all of your Apple accessories can now be fully USB-C compatible. Apple will no doubt have fancy names for the colors of the iPhone 15 but in short, they’re sort of black, sort of blue, sort of green, sort of yellow, and sort of red with the colored options a slightly off-white kind of color. It’s a decent upgrade and certainly more of a leap from the 14 to the 15 than the 13 to 14.
iPhone 15 Pro
Let’s move on to the iPhone 15 Pro.
The iPhone 15 Pro is made out of titanium, and Apple is clearly very proud of this fact. This is not just any metal to Apple, this is titanium baby. It’s lighter, it’s stronger, and it was even used on the Mars Rover, yes, they actually said that. Aside from all the hype about the titanium, there are some really cool features here. The mute switch is being replaced by an Action button. You can still mute and unmute if you want to, but you can choose from 9 different options making it way more versatile.
The action button can
1. mute and unmute,
2. turn on Do Not Disturb, or activate Focus Mode,
3. activate the camera,
4. start recording a voice memo,
5. turn on or off the flashlight,
6. start translation,
7. open the magnifier,
8. run a Siri Shortcut,
9. activate accessibility features including VoiceOver.
The iPhone 15 Pro comes with an A17 Pro chip which should be great in particular for gamers who need high performance. Apple was enormously proud of their gaming performance with some console games now coming to the iPhone 15 Pro.
The other major update especially for visually impaired people is the upgrade to the camera. Yes, it can take fantastic new photos in low light and all those cool things, but on 15 Pro Max, it’s coming with a 5X optical zoom which should be a game changer for regular users of the magnifier. It was a great way to end Apple’s Wanderlust event.
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