Sure, Apple's products are overhyped. But they satisfy customers, and they get better every year.
Remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The fantasy TV series chronicled the adventures of a teenage girl with superpowers, and her friends, as they fought vampires and other supernatural menaces.
Every year, the world very nearly came to an end, but total destruction was averted at the last minute by Buffy and her plucky pals. It got to be a running joke on the show. When Buffy was finally killed (spoiler alert: she got better), the epitaph on her tombstone said, "She saved the world. A lot."
Apple is like that. Twice a year, Apple holds its big product announcement events. And every one of those announcements is revolutionary, world-changing, your-life-will-never-be-the-same.
I've been following Apple and using their products for ten years, since the iPhone introduction. I have a Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and I had a pair of AirPods until I lost the darn things in Las Vegas a few weeks ago. I'm still a loyal Apple user.
But am I happy? Enthusiastic? I use Apple products every day; can anybody be enthusiastic about something they use with that degree of frequency? Like any fan of anything (sports teams, Star Wars), I spend a lot of my time complaining.
And so, as always, I tuned in to the live stream of Apple's latest big announcement on Tuesday with a jaded eye. Apple introduced new Apple watches, an Apple TV and iPhones. Here are the highlights of what I found -- the good, the bad and the indifferent -- illustrated with screen captures of the video stream, as viewed on my trusty Mac.
The Apple Watch Series 3
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch is consistently underestimated, but this one looks like it might be the sleeper hit of the season, more important than new iPhones, which got all the glory.
The big difference between the Series 3 Apple Watch and its predecessors is that the Series 3 supports LTE. You can send and receive calls with the built-in speaker or a Bluetooth headset, listen to music, receive messages and send them using Siri dictation, get directions with Maps, and use the Watch as an activity and athletics monitor.
With this release, the Apple Watch finally finds its place in the world. Even though Apple has sold many Watches already, and customer satisfaction is high (I have one myself and like it a lot), it's a nice-to-have device, not a gotta-have device. If you have an iPhone in your pocket, the Watch is an added convenience. But you can already do everything you need to do on that phone so what do you need the Watch for?
With the Apple Watch Series 3, you don't need a phone nearby. The Apple Watch is for people who don't want to carry around a phone, and who aren't addicted to Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. If you just want to be connected occasionally -- in case of emergency, for example -- and you want to do the other things the Watch can do, then it's the device for you.
The Apple Watch finally makes sense as a mass-market device. The Apple Watch has always had legions of skeptics; Series 3 is going to surprise them.
The Series 3 with GPS and cellular starts at $399, while a GPS-only model starts at $329, and the Series 1 gets a discount to $249. The Series 3 will be available for preorder September 15, with availability September 22. Watch OS 4, the new version of the Watch operating system, will be available on all Apple Watches September 19.
Jeff Williams, Apple chief operating officer, demonstrates the Apple Watch.
Williams demonstrates the Watch's phone quality with a call to Apple's Deidre Caldbeck, who takes the call on her Watch while standing on a surfboard. Hilariously, she struggled to perform this multitasking process without falling down. Sadly, she did not fall down, which would have been more hilarious. The audio quality was very good, by the standards of cell phone audio, and Williams noted it was all done with the cell connectivity and microphones available on the Apple Watch. In other words, the Watch is a practical device for making phone calls.
The Apple TV
Apple introduced a 4K version of the Apple TV, also supporting HDR. Nobody cares. The Apple TV consistently lags the Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and TiVo in capabilities, market share or both.
Midway through the Apple TV part of the presentation, the activity app on my Watch said it was time for me to get up and move around, so I went into the backyard and played with the dog for a minute.
When I came back, they got into the meat of the presentation.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus have what you'd expect from a new model of iPhones: New chips, better performance, better display and better cameras. In addition to portrait photo mode, introduced last year, the iPhone's built-in software can optimize lighting contours on the face when you compose a shot. And you can change the lighting in the Photos app later too.
Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing (the tiny man on the right), shows off the new portrait lighting feature on the iPhone 8.
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I'm not posting photos of the iPhone 8 models. They look the same as iPhones have looked since the iPhone 6. Same display size -- 4.7 inches for the iPhone 8, and 5.5 inches for the iPhone 8 Plus. Different colors, though.
Schiller highlighted the iPhone's augmented reality capabilities, which the company previewed in the spring. (See Apple Tunes Up Siri & Cloud Services.)
Next page: The iPhone X: The big finish