TODAY’S APPLE WATCH event brought us a few more details about the company’s first wristable, sure. But there were also plenty of non-watch announcements made today that were just as impressive. Here’s what happened, and why it mattered.
We can start with the headliner. It turns out that Apple had already shared most of what it had to say about its wearable at its first introduction last September. The most important new info is the price, which varies—a lot—based on what model you opt for. Here’s a quick breakdown (price ranges depend on accompanying band).
Apple Watch Sport Edition: $349 (38mm); $499 (42mm)
Apple Watch: $549-$1049 (38mm); $599-$1099 (42mm)
Apple Watch Edition: $10,000 and up (and up, and up)
Preorders start on April 10th, with availability slated for April 24th. And while that Apple Watch Edition price might seem crazy, there’s a perfectly good explanation.
Otherwise, this is the same Apple Watch you’ve seen before. It offers some clever messaging and communication tools, like letting you share a drawing on your display with a fellow Apple Watch wearer in real time. It includes health monitoring tools, like an an accelerometer and heart rate monitor, and will help keep track of your fitness goals and nag you when you’re not meeting them. It plays nice with Siri and Apple Pay. You can use it for phone calls, even though if you have any common decency you probably shouldn’t. All pretty familiar!
We did, though, get a little more insight into what apps will work with it from launch, and how. Favorites like Twitter and MLB at Bat will bring with them fairly obvious notification use-cases (here is a tweet! here is a score!) while apps like Instagram will be present despite not making a strong case for why (here is beautiful photograph that you can barely see at this size!). The most useful apps will likely be those that save you time with your real-life interactions, like an American Airlines Passbook integration that lets you wave your wrist at TSA rather than digging out either your physical boarding pass or the one on your phone. Similarly, a W Hotels app will let you unlock your hotel room door with a single tap, rather than having to keep track of a keycard.
So far, most developers don’t seem to have done much beyond offloading features from your smartphone to your wrist. That’s enough to shave a few seconds off of a few interactions every day, probably, but hopefully over time they’ll be able to zero in on use cases that feel truly unique.
The real star of the show—other than potential sticker shock for Apple Watch Edition hopefuls—was Apple’s 12-inch, two-pound, whisper-thin, totally redesigned, Retina display MacBook. An addition to Apple’s laptop lineup, rather than a MacBook Air replacement, the new Macbook features a few innovations might take a little getting used to.
To achieve its 13.1 millimeter thinness—that’s nearly a quarter less bulk than the current MacBook Air—this new MacBook ditches nearly all ports save for one USB Type-C (used for file transfers, video output, and charging) and a headphone jack. Its internals are also thoroughly redesigned; a tiny logic board, a Core M processor that lacks serious horsepower but allows for fanless operation, and acres of battery for up to 10 hours between charges.
Apple also gave the super-slight MacBook a new type of keyboard, trading traditional scissor switches for a “butterfly” movement that the company says improves accuracy but that we found a bit awkward in actual use. Similarly, a new “Force Touch” trackpad, which senses different levels of pressure applied, takes some getting used to.
The existing MacBook Air, meanwhile, got a processor bump but not a much-needed Retina display upgrade, leaving some question as to what sort of future Apple intends for its original ultralight laptop.
The new MacBook will start at $1,299 for a configuration with 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. They’ll be available in silver, space grey, and gold, and will start shipping April 10th.
Cheaper Apple TV and HBO Now
Apple TV hardware didn’t get a spec upgrade today—although we hope to see one at some point this year; it’s been a while—but it did get a price cut, from $99 down to $69. That’s probably an overdue drop, given the prevalence of cheap streaming dongles like the Amazon Fire Stick and Chromecast. It also staves off competition from full-feature boxes like the Amazon Fire TV, Roku 3, and Nexus Player both of which still retail at $99.
Of even more importance, especially for those who already have an Apple TV entrenched in their living room, was the news that Apple will be the exclusive launch partner for HBO Now, the cable network’s standalone streaming service. When HBO Now launches in April, you’ll only be able to access it on Apple TV or through an iOS app. It’ll cost you $15 per month, which is totally worth the thrill of leaving your cable subscription behind.
It’s not as flashy as watch or as gorgeous as a Q-tip-thin MacBook, but one of Apple’s most important announcements today was ResearchKit, a new open-source framework that hopes to draw on data from Apple’s millions of users to further medical studies. Essentially, it enables apps to turn your iPhone into a medical diagnostic device, sending your data to labs around the world.
ResearchKit will work with five apps as of today, including downloads that will attempt to do everything from tracking the effects of Parkinson’s disease, to aiding breast cancer patients. Any data collection will be strictly opt-in, and Apple itself won’t see any of your vitals along the way. While the idea of handing that much health data over to anyone can be off-putting, the potential benefits of research scientists having access to such a large sample size—and a constant flow of readings—are enormous.