Apple has unveiled the expected annual updates for its iPhone and Apple Watch line-ups. The headline change for the iPhone 15 series is about finally making the switch to USB C standard, while Apple Watch Series 9 as well as the second-generation Apple Watch Ultra, bring improvements including newer processors and functionality.
Alongside are generational updates for iOS, WatchOS and perhaps even iPadOS, which will roll out for all users on September 18. Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the Apple Vision Pro augmented reality headset, which was first demoed at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this summer, is on course to go on sale in early 2024.
Somewhat overshadowed by the iPhone and Apple Watch updates are the second generation AirPods Pro wireless earbuds. The highlight here is the new MagSafe charging case, with a USB-C charging interface. This will be priced at ₹24,900. It makes sense to bring the AirPods Pro at par with the rest of Apple’s device ecosystem, including the new iPhones and the iPad Pro line-up.
While the iPhone 15 series is still four models wide, this generation marks the end of an era for the Lightning port and cables. This change is driven by the looming European Union regulations, which mandate the standardisation of USB-C as the charging port on smartphones, computing devices and broader personal technology gadgets. This is already the port type of choice for Android phones globally.
Since 2012, then with the iPhone 5, Apple iPhones persisted with Apple’s proprietary charging port, called the Lightning port. It had its advantages, such as the reversible nature of being plugged in, and had a distinct transfer bandwidth advantage over the USB standard. Before Lightning, Apple iPhones had 30-pin connectors.
The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus are now made of aerospace grade aluminium, colour infused glass at the back, and metallic ions for colour saturation. There are new colours too, including pink, yellow and green. The performance upgrade brings it the A16 Bionic chip, which means parity with last year’s iPhone 14 Pro. This theme, to use an older generation chip, became clear last year.
While the 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch display sizes haven’t changed, the Super Retina XDR display is now brighter. The notch has been replaced by the Dynamic Island cut-out, which apps will be able to use this to generate quickly glanceable updates.
Dual camera setup continues, unlike the ‘Pro’ version iPhones that have three cameras. The big upgrade is the main camera, which is now the same 48-megapixel sensor seen on the iPhone 15 Pro phones, and indeed last year’s iPhone 14 Pro phones.
This is well poised to give iPhone users a significant step-up in terms of photography performance, something Android flagship phones had an advantage in. However, there can always be the argument about megapixel numbers, with many Android phones now featuring camera sensors with 108-megapixels or more.
The iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus pre-orders in India start on September 15, with sale commencing September 22. The price tags start at ₹79,900 and ₹89,900, respectively, which aren’t entirely dissimilar from the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus from last year.
The iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max are now made with a lighter and yet more robust metal – titanium. Screen sizes haven’t changed, with 6.1-inches and 6.7-inches continuing to feature, but the overall footprint is a few millimetres lesser because of thinner frames around the screen.
The toggle key on the left spine, a permanent fixture on iPhones over the years, has finally been replaced by what the company calls a customisable action button. Long pressing will still change the sound profile, but it can now also be customised for more tasks, such as opening apps or specific functionality such as launching the camera or voice memos.
There is the expected new processor, the A17 Pro, which has a 10% faster CPU and 20% faster graphics, compared with the A16 Bionic. Apple is so confident about the gaming performance boost, they have given us the first glimpse at console gaming titles that are arriving on iPhones soon. Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, and Death Stranding will release later this year, while Assassin’s Creed Mirage will be available in the first half of 2024.
Prices of the iPhone 15 Pro start at ₹1,34,900 while the larger iPhone 15 Pro Max comes for ₹1,59,900 onwards. The pre-order and sale timelines in India are the same as the iPhone 15 series.
Apple Watch, environment and no compromises
The Apple Watch Series 9 is now powered by an upgraded S9 SIP, or ‘system in a package’. This is a substantial processing power improvement, at least since the Series 6, and a contrast to incremental bumps over the past few generations. That is the reason a more powerful neural engine speeds up voice dictation accuracy by as much as 20 percent, compared to the predecessor.
What hasn’t changed is the display size or even the design of the Watch, but the new screen is rated as high as 2000 lumens. That is twice the illumination the Apple Watch Series 8 is capable of.
The Apple Watch Ultra, first seen last year, has evolved to the second generation. It is powered by the S9 chip, much like the Apple Watch Series 9. A brighter rated at 3000 nits, extended wideband connectivity tools and ‘modular ultra’ information watch face are important highlights. There is continuity with design and claimed battery life up to 72 hours on a single charge.
The highlight addition on the new Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, is the double tap gesture detection, where the smartwatch detects movement of your fingers to perform certain tasks. This will be compatible for receiving or disconnecting calls, snoozing alarms and setting timers, for starters.
Finger gestures will be detected using all motion detection sensors on the Watch, and processed with on-device machine learning, for accurate responses. Apple confirms the Double Tap functionality will be available through an update next month.
The Apple Watch Series 9 is priced from ₹41,900 and will go on sale in India, the US, the UK, Germany, France, Australia and a few other countries from September 22. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 will go on sale in India at the same time as the Series 9, with a price tag of ₹89,900.
The tech giant continues to focus on the environment, including initiatives towards being carbon neutral across its entire business, manufacturing supply chain, and product life cycle by 2030. An important part of that is the use of sustainable materials.
For instance, the Apple Watch Series 9 sees a 78% reduction in carbon footprint, changes reflected with recycled manufacturing materials. There are also new materials for watch bands, including the suede-like FineWoven bands that use 68 percent recycled materials and the Sport Loop that has 82 percent recycled yarn.
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.