It's officially that keynote time of year again and this Tuesday, September 12, Tim Cook and company kicked off the week with Apple's "Wonderlust" event from the company's headquarters in Cupertino, CA. While the keynote's main event was certainly unveiling the iPhone 15 family of devices, additional incremental updates for the Apple Watch and AirPods were announced, too. The company also took some time to run through some of the changes and quality-of-life updates in iOS 17 and watchOS 10.
iPhone 15, now with USB-C!
Keeping with its usual pattern, iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max carry the bulk of the new features, while the regular iPhone 15 and 15 Plus act as base models. This year features a lot of incremental updates for Apple's lineup. Notably, the base iPhone 15 models are getting the Dynamic Island, which is a display Apple introduced last year that features a pill-shaped and circular TrueDepth camera cutout to replace the notch of previous models. This time around, the display also features slimmer bezels, which add to the overall screen real estate and bring it in line with Pro models. The iPhone 15 and 15 Plus get another major upgrade in the form of a 48MP camera. Alongside the camera, Apple showed off a "next-generation portrait mode" that uses machine learning to capture depth information automatically when it detects a subject. This allows you to turn any photo into a portrait photo or even switch subjects after a shot has already been captured.
Probably the biggest update this year is one of the most significant updates to the iPhone in many moons. The long-awaited transition over to USB-C and consequential retirement of the Lightning cable comes at last. The last time we got a port change was in 2012, when Apple moved from the 30-pin iPod connector to Lightning. We hope this opens up the iPhone to the ever-growing ecosystem of USB-C based mobile accessories.
This year's Pro models also feature new titanium-based housings with slightly contoured edges. However, aluminum isn't completely gone, and Apple went into great detail to showcase its new thermomechanical process that bonds the aluminum on the inside to the titanium on the outside. Not only do the Pro versions get USB-C, but they also feature an all-new action button that replaces the ring/silent switch. Apple showed off the Pro model's all-new A17 Pro chip, which has dedicated engines for ProRes, always-on display, and AV1 video decoder for streaming services, among other performance and efficiency improvements.
A More Pro Camera System
iPhone camera enthusiasts will be pleased to learn some significant upgrades are coming to this year's phones. For starters, a new feature allows users to select either the 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm focal lengths as the default camera. In addition to 48MP ProRAW, the Main camera also supports 48MP HEIF images with 4x more resolution. The telephoto lens also now has five times the amount of zoom, allowing users to take shots at a 120mm focal length.
Apple also promises significantly better low-light performance with sharper details and better colors, powered by its "Photonic Engine" via the phone's LiDAR scanner. Smart HDR now has more dynamic range and Apple is promising more true-to-life renderings of skin tones.
iPhone filmmakers are also getting a bunch of great updates with the Pro models’ ability to shoot and instantly transfer 48MP ProRaw using CaptureOne. It also introduces a new option for Log encoding and supports ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System, a global standard for color workflows. Thanks to the new port's ability to utilize USB 3 data transfer speeds, you can shoot directly to an external drive, which is great for filmmakers who use it as the main camera on set. Last, but not least, Apple promises the ability to capture spatial video will be coming down the road, as well.
Another Incremental Year for Apple Watch
As for watches, this year, Apple is planning on releasing Series 9 of its Apple Watch. Under the hood, it’s powered by a new S9 SiP CPU, offering a significant performance jump over last year's model. A new double-tap gesture that offers users a way to control their watch with one hand makes its way to the watch, powered by its new chip. Doubling down on quality-of-life-based improvements, Apple took the time to show off some new features like On-Device Siri and the ability to access and log health data. Precision finding and HomePod Integration also make their way to Series 9. There is no physical redesign this year for the Series 9, so case sizing still comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes and, appearance-wise, it features the same design with a brighter 2000 nit display. However, there are a few new colors and band options now available, but to reduce its carbon footprint, it seems as though Apple has cut leather-based accessories entirely.
As for the Apple Watch Ultra, a second-generation "Pro" model aimed at serious athletes and professionals received an update, too. This year's model, simply called the Apple Watch Ultra 2, is packed with the same internal S9 SiP chip as the Series 9, so all those improvements are mirrored here. The Ultra 2's display goes up to 3000 nits, which makes it the brightest watch, to boot. Externally, the look remains unchanged, but expect a few new band options this time around.
Everything announced at today’s event will be available beginning September 22, with preorders expected to go live shortly after the keynote. Also be on the lookout for a whole host of iPhone 15-based accessories, available to order shortly after the event, like Peak Design's latest cases. The Everyday Loop has been my go-to staple for a while and those looking for something that’s rugged and relatively sleek won't be disappointed. Additionally, Moment is releasing plenty of its own accessories, like its iPhone 15 Pro-compatible lens mount, cases, and screen protectors—just to name a few.
What are your thoughts on today’s keynote? Let us know in the Comments, below. Be on the lookout for more in-depth coverage once we’re able to spend more hands-on time with the devices that were announced today.