On Monday, March 9th, Apple hosted its Spring product launch keynote at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Of course, Apple Watch took center stage at this event, but they also revealed a lot more including a new super-thin cutting edge MacBook. Here’s an overview of what Apple announced!
Apple TV & HBO Now – The first announcement of the day involved Apple TV. Unfortunately, the aging set-top box – which was last updated in 2012 – didn’t see a hardware refresh. Rather, Apple announced that HBO Now, a new subscription service from HBO that allows cord-cutters to pay $14.99 a month to gain access to HBO’s entire catologue, past and present, would be exclusive to Apple devices when it launches next month. The Apple TV will also sport a dedicated HBO Now app, making it the only streaming media box to offer the subscription on day one. Apple also lowered the price of the Apple TV from $99 to $69. Presumably Apple is hoping that with HBO Now and a lower price the Apple TV will better compete with more recently updated streaming devices such as the Roku and Amazon Fire TV. It will be interesting to see what Apple has up its sleeve with the Apple TV in the coming months. It’s amazing that the company continues to put so much focus on what is now a three year old device and it makes me think that they have plans to bring a significant refresh to the Apple TV in the near future. Otherwise, the device will fall way too far behind the competition.
ResearchKit – Next, Apple announced a new open-source software framework that allows medical researchers to build apps for iPhone that collect users’ health information. They described how they realized that the hundreds of millions of iPhones being carried around in people’s pockets represented a real opportunity to collect a ton of medical data. The idea is that the collection of this data could lead to much larger and more accurate sample sizes that could help provide big breakthroughs in treating diseases like Parkinson’s and Breast Cancer. Apple reiterated its commitment to customers’ privacy and was very clear that it will never see any of the medical data that is transmitted to doctors using these apps.
MacBook – In somewhat of a surprising twist, the first new product that Apple covered at the Spring Forward event was not the Apple Watch but a radically redesigned MacBook. For a few years now, Apple’s notebook lineup has consisted of the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. With this new addition the company has brought back the standalone MacBook monicker. This makes me think that the days of the MacBook Air are numbered – particularly since the new MacBook is actually more “air-ish” than the MacBook Air is. It’s significantly thinner (13.1mm as compared to the 17.3mm of the MacBook Air) and lighter (2.03lbs as compared to 2.38lbs). Some other interesting things about this new MacBook:
-Colors: The new MacBook, much like the iPhone and iPad lines, comes in Silver, Gold, and Space Grey.
-Retina Display: It has a retina-class 12″ display with 2304-by-1440 resolution, something that the MacBook Air never received.
-Redesigned Keyboard: The MacBook’s keyboard has been re-engineered with new butterfly hinged keys that yield a more consistent typing experience and with individual backlights behind each key that illuminate them much better in dark areas.
-Force Touch Trackpad – Forgoing the traditional “diving board” hinge found on MacBook trackpads for years now, the new MacBook borrows Force Touch and the Taptic Engine from Apple Watch to give the user more ways to interact with the trackpad, sensing pressure and providing sensory feedback when a “click” is initiated. Force Touch also allows for some interesting new interactions with OS X, for example allowing the user to hover over a word on a webpage and use Force Touch to immediately look up a dictionary result for the word.
-One Port – You read that right. The MacBook has only one port. Well, ok, maybe two if you count the headphone jack on the right side. On the left, though, is one single USB Type-C port, a new reversible USB standard that allows for some pretty amazing things. As is typical, Apple is on the forefront of including this technology in its computers. Users of the new MacBook will use this single port to charge the computer, transfer data, output to an external display, and more. Apple’s contention is that ports are becoming less and less necessary as the peripherals people are connecting their computers to rely more and more on technologies like bluetooth and AirPlay to interact wirelessly.
-No More Glowing Apple Logo – 🙁
The new MacBook is truly ahead of its time when it comes to technology. It actually reminds me a lot of the MacBook Air when it was first released in 2008 – consumers who buy it must be willing to make a lot of compromises to remain on the cutting edge of technology. It is likely that in a few years, many notebooks will look like the MacBook. If you’re willing to make the trade-offs and deal with some annoyances related to outdated technology now, Apple gives you an option to live in the future now. The Macbook will be available April 10th and will start at $1299.
Apple Watch – Clearly, this was the main event of the day. Everything about this event revolved around and pointed toward Apple Watch – even its name. While Apple didn’t reveal much new about the Apple Watch in terms of features, we did learn A LOT about previously unanswered questions when it came to pricing and availability. If you’d like to learn more about the Apple Watch’s features, check out the section on it in our previous post here. Here’s what we learned from the event that’s new:
-Pricing: As we already knew, Apple Watch will be sold in three different collections made with different materials: Apple Watch Sport in aluminum, Apple Watch in stainless steel, and Apple Watch Edition in 18 carat gold. The pricing of Apple Watch is perhaps one of the most interesting things from the event – prices range from $349 for Apple Watch Sport all the way up to $17,000 for the most expensive model in the Apple Watch Edition collection. Yes, you read that right. A 17 with three zeroes after it. As was to be expected, the band you choose to purchase with your Apple Watch can also dramatically affect the sticker price. For example, a stainless steel model from the Apple Watch collection starts at $549 with a white or black sport band. However, the most expensive band in this collection, the stainless steel link bracelet, raises the price to over $1000. The two different case sizes of the watch also differ in price a little bit. The 38mm Apple Watch Sport, for example, costs $349 with a choice of colorful sport bands. The 42mm Apple Watch Sport with a sport band starts at $399. It’s pretty amazing that Apple will be selling a tech product with a price range of $16,651. And even more amazing that a $349 Apple Watch Sport will perform just as well as a $17,000 Apple Watch Edition. But then again, Apple isn’t marketing Apple Watch as a tech product. It’s a fashion product. And when you think about it that way, its pricing makes a lot more sense.
-Availability: Apple Watch will be available for pre-order on April 10th and will ship on April 24th.
-Side Note: I’ll be ordering the 38mm Apple Watch Sport with a blue sport band. How about you?
It’s going to be an exciting year for Apple. By launching a new line of MacBooks and by entering a completely new product category with Apple Watch, they continue to push the industry forward. It will be interesting to see if these products will disrupt the industry again and if the new MacBook can keep notebooks relevant in a world of tablets and if Apple Watch can take the world of smartwatches and refine it into something that actually gains widespread use and makes people’s lives better.