It was a whirlwind affair with few surprises, yet the surprises that Apple’s big September event did have were extremely welcome. This was always going to be a weird event, and the lack of iPhones made it even weirder (if incredibly breezy). Yet Apple showed off some ridiculously well-priced watches, a souped-up iPad Air, and even announced the launch date for some of the season’s most anticipated OSes.
The Apple Watch Series 6
The least surprising announcement of the day was the Apple Watch Series 6. We knew it was coming, we were practically positive of the name, and its SpO2 sensor for tracking blood oxygen levels wasn’t exactly a surprise. But still the Apple Watch Series 6 looks like it will be a gorgeous new flagship for the Apple Watch brand. This one comes not only in stainless steel gold and black, but there’s are stunning blue and red options, too.
The Series 6 starts at $400. In addition to the new colors and health features, its always-on display is expected to be more than twice as bright in sunlight. There’s also a ton of new watch faces and they…kind of slap.
Yet the real star of the show is the SpO2 sensor. Apple is late to this particular party, but the company arrived in typical Apple fashion, with a cool new feature—in this case, a Blood Oxygen app that tests your blood oxygen level in just 15 seconds and immediately reports it back.
Apple Watch SE
A bit more of a surprise than the Series 6 is the new and super affordable Apple Watch SE. Starting at just $280, the SE is basically a Series 5 (so no SpO2 sensor or brighter always-on display) but a whole lot cheaper. It’s got all the stuff you’d expect from an Apple Watch, including GPS and cellular, but at $280 it actually feels like a bargain.
With the arrival of the SE, one would assume the aging Series 3 would end its lengthy run, but Apple’s keeping it around and charging just $200 for it. Still, if you’ve got $80 extra to spare you’d be dumb not to go for the SE instead.
Apple has recognized for a while that services are a great way to make money. That’s why we have things like Apple News+ and Apple TV+. Now there’s Fitness+. This one is aimed squarely at Peloton, and it’s intended to give Apple Watch users access to a whole lot of trainers so they can work out wherever they have an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and internet.
There are 10 different workouts to choose from—most of which require little to no equipment, and Apple says workouts will be updated weekly. The music accompanying those workouts will get updated weekly, too, and if you like the tunes and have an Apple Music account you can migrate them over to a playlist. The service starts at $10 a month, but can also be found in the new Apple One bundle.
Speaking of the Apple One bundle…it exists. There are three tiers available, each of which gathers Apple’s services together under one price tag.
The Individual plan costs $15 a month and includes Arcade, TV+, Apple Music, and iCloud with 50 GB of storage.
For $20 a month you bump up to the Family plan which can be shared with up to six people and comes with Arcade, TV+, Apple Music, and iCloud with 200 GB of storage.
Naturally, Apple would prefer you opt for the Premier plan. That’s $30 a month and comes with Arcade, TV+, Apple Music, and iCloud with 2 TB of storage. It also gives you News+, and the new Fitness+ too. As with the Family plan, it can be shared with up to six family members. That makes it the best deal of the bunch if you’re already deeply invested in the Apple ecosystem or just really enjoy Ted Lasso.
A pleasant surprise at today’s event was an updated base-model iPad. The 7th-gen model was cheap and just enough iPad for most people, but the 8th-gen one improves the performance with an A12 Bionic processor that should eke out 40% better performance while keeping the low price. It starts at $330 with pre-orders today and is expected to start shipping Friday.
A New iPad Air
The bigger iPad update was the refresh the iPad Air got. This is a whole new device, despite the name, and designed to look more like the iPad Pro. It comes in five different colors: silver, black, green, rose gold, and blue.
Besides a new look and nice array of colors, the iPad Air also has a 10.8-inch display, Touch ID built right into the power button, a full HD 7-MP camera on the front, a 12-MP one on the back, and a USB-C port for charging.
Like the Pro, it supports the Apple Pencil, and can even pair and charge the same way. It also supports the new Magic Keyboard and has a new 5nm A14 Bionic CPU that Apple claims is 40% faster when processing and 30% faster when handling graphics. With this thing potentially being faster than the Pro, and in a prettier array of colors, the Pro now feels like a tougher sell.
That’s particularly true when you look at the price. The iPad Air starts at just $600—a full $200 less than the 11-inch Pro.
Finally, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS all got release dates. That day would be tomorrow. Time to clear out any junk on your phone and iPad so you’ll have room.