Apple’s “Brighten Your Day” iPhone event went as expected and had all the heavily rumored major announcements that were predicted. As expected there were no all new products announced at this even such as the Smartwatch which will likely be announced later. The announcements may not have been the most revoutionary products but, these enhancements provide a strong feature set to hold us over.
The first announcement, following the retail update and stats, wasn’t really much of an announcement, but more a review of iOS 7 which was previewed back in June at WWDC. VP of iOS and OSX Software, Craig Federighi, demonstrated some of the new features and all new design of iOS 7. He also demonstrated the improvements to Siri including Twitter search and all new ringtones and alert tones. The most important thing from this segment is that iOS 7 will be released on September 18th for free for:
iPad 2 and Later
iPod Touch 5th Generation
Apple will also launch their streaming music service, iTunes Radio, on the 18th for free ad-supported streaming radio on all iOS 7 devices and in iTunes. The final iOS software announcement was that iWork, Apple’s mobile office suite along with iPhoto and iMovie will be free for all new devices activated after September 1st. This mirrors the bundling strategy used on Apple’s desktop and laptop computers and provides users a great value added since each App typically cost between $5 and $10 in the App Store. It also allows users to edit documents, presentations, spreadsheets, photos and videos on their phone out of the box which no phone really offers. Noticeably absent from those offering, was the remaining piece of the iLife Suite, GarageBand, which presumably will remain $5 on the App Store. This is slightly disappointing for those who may want to use their iOS devices to create music, but may be due to the fact there are royalties that must be paid for the loops included in GarageBand.
The first iPhone announcement was the multi-colored, budget friendly iPhone 5C. The internal components are virtually the same with the as the iPhone 5, featuring the last-generation A6 processor. The iPhone 5C does, however, have increased battery life and new and a new antenna system that cover more LTE wireless bands. The 5C forgo the anodized aluminum case of its predecessor for polycarbonate plastic cases in 5 different colors: Blue, White, Pink, Yellow and Green. The iPhone 5C will be $99 for the 16 GB and $199 for the 32 GB model with a 2 year contract. It is available for pre-order this Friday, September 13th and will ship September 20th.
The big announcement of the day the new flagship phone, the iPhone 5S, as expected. The iPhone 5S, like previous “S” models, is based on the existing iPhone 5 design with improved specs. One of the few noticeable differences from the iPhone 5 is the color choices, the 5S comes in Silver, similar to the previous White model, Gold, and Space Gray, somewhat similar to the previous black model. There is also a steel ring around the home button, which will be explained later on. The iPhone 5S will deliver speeds up twice as faster as the iPhone 5 with the all new A7 processor which is also the first 64 bit smartphone chip. There is also the M7 chip which tracks motion in the phone and unlocks functionality for a whole new generation of fitness tracking applications.
The 5S has the same 8 Megapixel camera, but don’t be fooled, the image sensor is 15% larger and now sports a 5 element lens that shoots at a 2.2 Apeture for significantly better low light and overall performance. The new camera system also takes advantage of the power of the A7 processor with dynamic tone mapping and autofocus matrixes to improve the color and focus of images, providing DSLR-level features. The 5S camera also takes multiple images every time the shutter is pressed and automatically chooses the best image or can even combined multiple takes for the optimal image. In addition, users can now take up to 10 pictures per second in burst mode and motion blur will be a thing of the past with built-in auto image stabilization. The final feature of the new camera system is the TrueTone flash that has 2 LED flashes, one warm light, one cool to best match the environment and produces the most accurate color.
Probably the biggest new feature of the iPhone 5S is the TouchID fingerprint reader built into the home button. User can simply securely lock their phone, and instead of typing in a code each time they want to unlock their phone, they can just touch their home button. The phone can recognize up to 5 fingers or 5 trusted users and not only can TouchID unlock the phone but can also be used to make purchases from the iTunes Store. Fingerprint readers are typically temperamental at times but the TouchID reader can read a fingerprint at any angle so hopefully it can provide a better experience than existing biometric solutions, but no one will know until they get their hands on the iPhone 5S.
The battery life is going to be the same if not better than the iPhone 5, providing up to 10 hours of battery life when surfing the internet on LTE. Pricing remains the same as previous models with the 16 GB model starting at $199 and topping off with the 64 GB model for $399. There is no preorder available for the 5S, but it will also be available for purchase on September 20th.
The iPhone 5S was really the biggest and most important announcement this event, in my opinion. The 5C is important in that it provides a powerful entry-level iPhone, but technically doesn’t deliver anything new since its the guts of the iPhone 5 stuffed in a cheaper, multicolor plastic shell. The iPhone 4S will surprisingly remain available as well, for free with a new contract. I would have expected with Apple releasing two new iPhones this year, that they would eliminate the remaining 30-pin devices in favor of the newer, thinner lightning adapter.
There were also a few announcements that weren’t made at the presentation but were announced shortly after. First, the iPod Touch and iPod Nano, which were notably absent from this event, are now available in Space Gray in addition to the existing color choices. Apple also released the first official iPhone docks for both the 5C and 5S, since the iPhone 4S. In less exciting news, the service fee for phone replacements under AppleCare rose from $49 to $79. Finally, Apple quietly discontinued the Cards app that allowed users to mail greeting cards with pictures from their phones. It is expected however, that much of the functionality will move to the soon to be free iPhoto.
Overall, it was a great event, although nothing unpredicted happened, the announcements are all very exciting. The new hardware combine with the new iOS 7 software will breathe new live into the iPhone and will serve to further expand Apple’s mobile market share.