Apple's fall announcement

Yes, fall is upon us. If the weather did not clue you in, Apple’s regular fall updates should.  They are as regular as the seasons.  Here are my thoughts on the new hardware and software.

New hardware

Of course, the big news every September are the new iPhone announcements.  Like clockwork.   This year there was not one, but two new iPhones announced.

iPhone 8 & 8 Plus - These should have been called 7s but still would have been characterized as small tweaks to the 7.  Small incremental changes to the display, camera and speed, but to the casual observer, not a noticeable difference.  The big change is wireless charging (in addition to traditional wired charging).  That is the good news.  The bad news is that wireless charging is slow (which is fine for overnight charging) and the worst news is that it necessitated the back of the phone to be made of glass instead of aluminum.  They raised the price $50 over last year’s 7 pricing.  Prices start at $699.

iPhone X (ten, not “ex”) - Not available until November, this model is pretty cool but really expensive.  It is about the size of a regular iPhone with a display that is bigger than an iPhone Plus size!  They do this by running the display from edge to edge.  In doing this they had to move the Home button to the side of the phone and lose TouchID (fingerprint sensing).  In its place they created FaceID, which learns the details of your face and then uses the camera to “look” at you to allow you into your locked phone.  Prices start at $1000.  Ouch.

They have kept both the iPhone 7 and 6s in the lineup at $549 and $449 respectively.  The iPhone SE is still in the lineup, unchanged, starting at $349.  The SE is most of the components of an iPhone 6 in an iPhone 5 body. 

Thankfully Apple has totally removed 16GB storage from all iPhones.  The smallest is now 32GB and for most people I recommend 64GB or more.

So, my thoughts on all of this are that the iPhone 8 (should have been 7s) is not much of an improvement over the 7, has a glass back and somewhat useless wireless charging.  For a minimum difference of $150, the 8 is not worth it over the 7 (this is not quite apples-to-apples as they have different storage, but…).

A personal story - my wife’s iPhone just turned 3 years old (about 75 in human years) and was having battery issues.  We wanted to wait until the announcement to see what the next thing was in iPhones before we bought her a new one.  We ended up getting her an iPhone 7, 128GB for $649.

The iPhone X is a really nice phone if you have the cash and don’t mind a glass back and the new FaceID.  It will clearly be the iPhone of the future, but it may be wait until it drops in price and FaceID proves itself to be practical in the real world.

Additional new hardware announced was the Apple Watch Series 3, which has GPS onboard.  For a little more money you can get a Series 3 with a cellular radio in it so you do not have to have your iPhone with you to make or receive calls, text, stream music, get alerts, etc.  $329 & $399 respectively.

For me, although the new watch is nice, I don’t need another $10 added to my cell phone bill for its separate service and the other features just don’t compel me to upgrade from my Series 0 (original Apple Watch I have worn every day for 2 ½ years).

Apple TV 4K.  This is the same as the current Apple TV 4th generation, but adds support for 4K resolution (beyond 1080 ultra HD).  I don’t have a 4K TV, nor access to any 4K content.  On top of that, my eyes are pretty old and I am not sure the improvement would jump out at me.  I can barely tell the difference between 720 (HD) and 1080.  $179.

New software, specifically operating systems

This is overall better news from Apple.  As in the past, new iPad, iPhone and Mac operating systems were released in the last month and they are stellar….and free!

iOS 11 for iPad and iPhone - This has been out a couple of weeks now and is a really nice upgrade, especially for the iPad.  It adds a Mac-like Dock to the bottom of the screen, lets you use two apps at once, side-by-side.  There is a new Files app that lets you access files in the cloud (iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) that operates a lot like Finder on your Mac.  The Camera and Phone apps get some nice upgrades, especially for Live Photos and editing filters. 

Read more about iOS 11 here:

macOS High Sierra for the Mac - This is a “robustness build” on the previous macOS Sierra.  As such there are not a lot of feature changes, but a lot of changes under the hood, including:

  • New hard drive format that is more secure and responsive
  • Safari now stops websites from tracking you, so no longer will you see that mountain bike that you just researched showing up on other websites like Facebook.  Also, those annoying videos will no longer auto-play when you open a web page.
  • New photo and video formats (replacing .jpg and .mp4) that allow smaller file sizes with the same photo or video quality
  • Photos app gets some major enhancements including some really nice organization, editing and ease of use improvements.

Read more about macOS High Sierra here:

Of course there are new operating systems for Apple TV and Apple Watch.

I highly recommend you upgrade all of your Apple devices now.  I have posted step-by-step instructions in the Help area of my website:

To upgrade your iPad or iPhone to iOS 11:

To upgrade your Mac to macOS High Sierra:

Thats about it.  As always, I highly recommend that you keep your devices upgraded and updated (these are different).  The fall is the season for upgrading.   Go for it!