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Over the past few years, Apple’s annual fall event has become fairly predictable. New iPhone, new Apple Watch, new iPad, new streaming service you have to pay for, environmental initiative! The Apple Event September 2020 threw a wrench in all this, not for tacking on an exciting “one more thing,” but for having one less: the iPhone. (Rumor has it that will come next month.) So what did we get? Actually, some solid updates to the Apple Watch and iPad product lines.
Here’s everything you need to know about the products and services announced during the Apple Event September 2020.
New Apple Watches, Plural: Watch Series 6 and Watch SE
The Apple Watch Series 6 maintains the same design as the Apple Watch Series 5, but tacks on two new sensors. (The current state of consumer technology and its obvious maturation can be summed up by the fact that sensors are now event-worthy.) The big draw is a blood oxygen monitoring sensor, which uses red and infrared light and needs about 15 seconds to do its job. Less relevant to your health and survival: an always-on altimeter, so that you can get accurate readings on your distance above sea-level.
Other upgrades include a 20-percent-faster processor and a 2.5-times-brighter display, along with the same 18 hours of battery life as the Series 5. The GPS-only (no cellular) version of the watch will start at $400.
New blue-bodied and Product(RED)-bodied aluminum Series 6 watches also join the family, and come with matching bands. (Colors were a big part of the show, as you'll see below.) Speaking of bands, Apple has also announced two new watch bands without clasps or buckles, if you like putting on a watch to feel more like donning a Livestrong bracelet.
The Cheaper-ish Watch: The Apple Watch SE
Like the iPhone SE launched in April, the Watch SE delivers baseline Apple-ness on a budget. What you lose: the always-on display, heart-rate monitoring, and blood oxygen monitoring. But the Watch SE does have the always-on altimeter of the Series 6 and the relatively powerful processor used in the Series 5 watch. All for $280. According to Apple, that processor makes the SE up to twice as powerful as the Apple Watch Series 3, which will still be sold for $200. So unlike the iPhone SE, the Watch SE is the middle child.
WatchOS 7 Is Watching You
Both the Apple Watch Series 6 and SE will fully support all the new features of watchOS 7. That update gets you access to sleep tracking (extremely useful, but—does math on 18-hour battery life and 24-hour day—it'll challenge you to keep the watch charged), fall detection, and new hand-washing detection (which will make sure you’re scrubbing between those fingers for at least 20 seconds). Oh, and Apple is removing the USB power adapters from new Apple Watches. You’ll still get a cable, but you’ll have to repurpose an old brick you have lying around. (Expect this change to be mirrored in next month’s iPhone release, too.)
The iPads Get Even Better: Apple iPad and Apple iPad Air
Apple's eighth-generation iPad. Courtesy of Apple
The cheapest version of Apple’s iPad was already a convincing replacement for a basic laptop, save for a couple of little quirks. This afternoon, Apple decided to make it a bit better anyway. Starting this month, the $330 iPad is getting an upgraded processor (which Apple says makes it 40 percent faster than its predecessor) and lets it run the new iPad OS extremely smoothly. These changes are fairly iterative. The regular iPad is still basically as good as it was before.
The iPad Air Goes Semi-Pro
The updates to the iPad Air, on the other hand, are extremely significant. The new iPad Air looks a lot like the iPad Pro announced earlier this year, with a massive 10.9-inch end-to-end screen and no home button. Sneakily, the iPad Air has TouchID built into the power button. This frankly, rules. FaceID on the iPad Pro is a little bit janky—when using it, I find myself frequently being told that I’m not close enough to the camera or that my angle is off, especially when I’m using my iPad while cooking. Maintaining TouchID while maximizing screen size should eliminate this problem entirely. I’m thrilled.
The new Air also now has USB-C connectivity (peace out, Lightning), a beefier processor, and support for the new Pencil and Magic Keyboard. The $800 Pro still has a better camera, FaceID, and a high 120 Hz refresh rate, but if these aren’t things you think you’ll use (who is still out here taking pictures with their iPad?), the $600 iPad Air is an extremely tantalizing compromise.
Oh, and the iPad Air now comes in three new, lovely colors that are not silver, gray, or gold. Not that we need our gear to be playful—especially when the wise move for a $600 magic windowpane is to swaddle it in a protective case—but it's nice to have some fun options, especially for a piece of tech Apple touts as being intended to fuel creativity. The seafoam-esque green is particularly cool. (Someone call Tobe Nwigwe.)
More Streaming Services: Apple Fitness+ and Apple One
Looking for more things to subscribe to? GOOD NEWS. Apple released another streaming service today. Apple Fitness+ offers a suite of workout classes and programs, sort of like those offered by a company like Peloton or Mirror, but without a piece of equipment that costs over $1,000. That said, Fitness+ does use the live health data from your Apple Watch to tell you how you’re doing through the workout. The service will cost $10 a month, or $80 a year—though when you buy a new Apple Watch, you get free access for 3 months.
(Apple) One Service to Rule Them All
With so many subscription services—Apple TV+, Music, Fitness+, Arcade, iCloud storage, and News+—it only makes sense that Apple would offer a bundle. But this is 2020, nothing is simple, and so Apple One is actually three different bundles: Individual (Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50G of iCloud storage for $15 a month), Family (the same apps but with 200GB of iCloud storage for $20 a month) and Premier (the same apps, plus Apple News+ and Fitness+, and 2TG of cloud storage for $30 a month). The individual plan offers a $6 discount over individual pricing on each service, but you really need to be a dedicated user of everything in Apple One to see a benefit.