Everything You Need to Know About Apple's September 2015 Announcement

Many of the details had leaked ahead of time, but seeing them altogether in Apple's presentation gave a wholeness that was more than the sum of the parts. Each new device was astonishing, with Apple again taking the industry in new directions. 3D Touch on the iPhone, Siri integration in Apple TV, multitasking and a stylus on a 12.9-inch iPad, and the heartbeat of a baby and her mother viewed on a doctor's Apple Watch — all these things and more showed that Apple continues to have the vision that has made it the most highly valued company in the world.

iPhone 6s

We had heard a lot about Force Touch on the iPhone 6s, and seeing a demo convinced me that this is the future of touch. Called 3D Touch, it makes operation of one's iPhone so much more seamless. Using an iPhone entails constantly navigating among screens and views. 3D Touch changes that completely. Wherever you're located, you can "peek" at the next screen or view without leaving where you are. If there's an Internet address in an email, a light touch will show you the web page — without your going into Safari. If there's a date in a text message, you can touch it lightly and peek at your calendar, without your having to leave Messages. if you touch lightly on an app in a Home screen, you get a peek at a list of common actions that you can select from.

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In presenting the feature, Phil Schiller kept referring to it as "peeking," which seems apt. If you want to go to the actual app and leave the app you're in, then you give a deeper press. 3D Touch also includes a new gesture for viewing open apps. Instead of double tapping the Home button, you simply apply some pressure to the edge of the display, and then slide to select an app.

The iPhone 6s display also includes haptic feedback, so that every gesture is accompanied by a sensation that's associated with that gesture. It's shorter, more distinct feedback than the vibration one is accustomed to with a phone. This greater refinement offered by the Taptic Engine offers a lot of different nuances in haptic feedback and works hand-in-hand with the 3D Touch feature.

The other big innovation in the new iPhone 6s is the camera. It now has a 12-megapixel sensor and can shoot 4K video. Perhaps the coolest feature is called Live Photo: touch an any still photo and you get what appears to be a short three-second video. Live Photo is enabled by default for any "still photo" you take. It records 1.5 seconds on either side of the photo, so that if you take a photo of rippling waves, you not only get your still photo, but also a 3D touch on the photo shows you the rippling as it happened. Live Photo even includes sound, such that you can hear the rippling waves. Who but Apple would think of something like this? Schiller emphasized that it's not video and that it uses space in an efficient way that increases the file size a minimal amount. 

Other details include a faster processor, faster LTE and Wi-Fi, faster Touch ID, faster graphics, a 5-megapixel FaceTime camera that uses the retina display as a flash, and a new rose gold color.

Apple TV

The new Apple TV was extremely impressive, especially Siri. Here's a feature that you won't see in other set-top boxes. If you're watching a movie and you don't hear what was said, you can press the Siri button and ask, "What did he say?" The Apple TV will automatically skip back 15 seconds and replay it while also temporarily turning on captions. Who else but Apple would think of that?

As rumored, you'll be able to use Siri to search across apps, beginning with HBO, Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Showtime, with more apps to be added. You can press the Siri button and make a request such as, "Show me funny TV shows," and the Apple TV will present a list of comedies sorted by popularity. Or you can ask "Show me some James Bond movies." When Siri shows the list, you can then say, "Just the ones with Sean Connery," and then Apple TV will filter the list, remembering what you had previously asked. You can also make requests such as "Skip ahead seven minutes."

The remote is as rumored, with a touch pad and motion sensors. And there will be an App Store, including games. The games will include multiplayer games that can be controlled not only by the remote but also with an iPhone or an iPad. The app and game demos were very impressive.

The new Apple TV remote works via Bluetooth and can also be used to control the volume on your TV and to turn it on and off. It's charged via a Lightning connector and lasts up to three months per charge. The new Apple TV is priced at $149 for 32 GB and $199 for 64 GB and will be available in October. You can bet I'll be ordering one.

iPad Pro

The combination of a larger display, the new Apple Pencil, and all-new suites from Microsoft and Adobe made for a very impressive demo of the iPad Pro. It's clearly aimed at high-end professional users. As rumored, the display is 12.9 inches. Phil Schiller pointed out that its width is the same as the height of the iPad Air. That means that when you have it in landscape, you can be viewing two full-sized apps side by side. The Adobe and Microsoft demos showed how powerful this can be, quickly moving content from Excel into Word, for example. Adobe has built a completely new suite for the iPad Pro that includes page layout, photo editing, and sketching.

The Apple Pencil is a marvel in itself. It, too, can detect force, but also can detect angle and orientation. It is so precise that you can touch single pixels. You recharge it by connecting it to the Lightning connector in the iPad Pro. Also available is a new case with built-in Smart Keyboard that connects magnetically to the iPad. The magnetic contacts transfer both power and data — no need for Bluetooth.

The new iPad starts at $799 for 32 GB of memory. The model with 128 GB and LTE is $1,079. There's also, as rumored, a new iPad mini that's identical to the iPad Air 2, except for being a smaller size. The new iPads will be available in November.

Apple Watch

Apple introduced new finishes for the Apple Watch — rose gold and anodized aluminum —  and a variety of new bands. But the most impressive part of the Apple Watch segment was the demo of AirStrip, an app that lets doctors communicate with patients and even shows their vital signs on the Apple Watch's display. It was evident what a powerful new tool the Apple Watch is, and how eminently practical it can be in health care.

Overall, it was yet one more exciting and enjoyable Apple event — and it gives me a couple new toys to look forward to.

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Jim Karpen's picture

Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.