Apple's Underwhelming New Releases
They didn't try anything daring, but if you're in the market for new iOS products we have some recommendations.
Until recently, I spent nine years as the Managing Editor of TidBITS, and one of the fun things about that job was getting paid to watch every single Apple event. But as much as I enjoyed my time there, I’m glad I’m no longer scrutinizing every second of Apple’s events, because this recent one—dubiously dubbed Wonderlust—was a tedious bore.
Apple’s announcements were so predictable that you could set your Apple Watch to them: the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 9, and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. They are all incredibly minor and incremental upgrades with very few surprises. Apple’s attention is clearly focused on its nightmarish, reality-warping SCUBA goggles that they’ve dubbed the Vision Pro.
Apple has also clearly hit a limit on what they can do with small black rectangles. So much so that they had to add a full ten minutes of filler to the “Wonderlust” event discussing Apple’s environmental measures, featuring a bizarre four-minute sketch with Tim Cook—along with other Apple employees—trying to placate an angry Mother Nature—played by Octavia Spencer—by boasting of the company’s many environmental and climate initiatives.
All of this tedious build-up for a single announcement relevant to the end customer: leather is now banned in Apple-endorsed accessories. No more sustainable leather in iPhone cases or Apple Watch bands. Instead, Apple’s leather watch bands have been replaced with some recycled plastic they’ve dubbed “FineWoven.” Even the overpriced Hermēs line now features bands made of some woven plastic monstrosity instead of renewable and luxurious leather.
I’m all for protecting the environment. I applaud most of Apple’s efforts, especially in supporting older iPhones for much longer than any Android manufacturer. My iPhone 11 Pro is still going strong after nearly four years, which was unthinkable for a smartphone just a few years ago.
However, Apple’s odd pagan-tinted sketch was an obnoxiously long buildup only to announce that they’re making the end product worse.
Oh well, there will be dozens of hundreds of fly-by-night Chinese manufacturers ready to fill in the leather gap, and Apple’s hands can remain spotless.
That said, there were some good announcements, albeit not earth-shattering:
Despite rampant inflation and many rumors to the contrary, prices start the same as last year: $799 for the basic iPhone and $999 for the titanium iPhone 15 Pro.
The iPhone 15 is a significant update in two particular ways: it gains Dynamic Island, a small interactive display area surrounding the sensor package, and it now features a dedicated telephoto camera mode. These were my two main reasons for recommending the iPhone 14 Pro at Apple Buying Advice. Save the iPhone 15 Pro for serious photographers.
USB-C has now replaced Lightning across the iPhone lineup. Even the second-generation AirPods Pro will ship with a USB-C charging case. While some will find this irritating, it means iPhones will be able to use an industry-standard charging connector, and likely the same one you use to charge your MacBook.
Apple has upgraded its satellite-powered Emergency SOS feature to include satellite calls for roadside assistance. Emergency SOS has already proven to be an invaluable feature, most notably during the recent Maui fire.
If 2 TB of iCloud storage isn’t enough, you can soon pay for 6 or 12 TB of iCloud storage—for an eye-watering $29.99 or $59.99 per month. Hey, it’s an option.
Here is a tiny tidbit from my friend and old boss, Adam Engst: You can charge an AirPods case or Apple Watch with the iPhone 15 models. Of course, you’ll still need a cable, but it’s a handy option.
As for product recommendations, I personally will be buying an iPhone 15 to replace my iPhone 11 Pro, in whatever color I can nab when I wake up on Friday morning, because a) it’s going in a case anyway, and b) I’m long over waking up at 2 AM to buy a phone.
Get as much storage as you can reasonably afford. The default 128 GB is enough for most, but I’m more comfortable with 256 GB for an extra $100. You can upgrade to 512 GB for another $100, which might be worth it if you keep the phone for several years. But even I, a hopeless hoarder, have only used about half of the 256 GB in my Trump-era iPhone.
As for the Apple Watch, I think most people will be fine with last year’s Apple Watch SE, which is still a bargain. If you want a bit more style, I’m sure you’ll be able to find last year’s Series 8 for a nice discount, and you won’t be missing out on much. I’m still happy with my Apple Watch Series 4, which does a fine job of tracking all the health-related things you expect from an Apple Watch.
Unless your devices are noticeably long in the tooth, I recommend saving your money this year and looking ahead to the new features in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17, which arrive on September 18th. As it happens, I just released a new book to help you get ready: Take Control of iOS 17 and iPadOS 17.