Written by Prof. Rom Feria
September 16, 2020, 1am Manila Time is when Apple did their first major product announcement during the pandemic. This event was really short (and was it sweet?) clocking at an hour give or take. As revealed in the rumor mills — Apple CEO Tim Cook announced outright that the event is about two products, the Apple Watch and the iPads. So what do I think of the new product announcements?
First up was the Apple Watch Series 6. I was hoping that there is no blood glucose monitoring, which will compel me to upgrade my Series 5 immediately. And thank goodness, the only sensor added was the blood oxygen sensor. I can make do without that as I just recently purchased a pulse oximeter (got a 98% +/- 2). This, of course, does not discount the fact that the Series 6 comes with a faster processor, which, in addition to the blood oxygen sensor, gives you an always-on altimeter and better always-on display performance.
The Apple Watch SE, a cheaper model, was no longer a surprise considering the rumors all over Twitter. It is basically the Series 5 without the ECG and without the always-on display at around PhP7,000 less than the Series 6. This will probably be a stocking stuffer this year!
The Family Setup, which allows you to pair an Apple Watch (Series 3 and newer) to your iPhone and assign it to your parent or child — so they won’t need their own iPhones. This got me excited, thinking about how perfect it would be for my mom, but the moment that availability was announced, it was a bummer! Yeah, it is only available in select markets because of the Apple deals with the telcos. Unfortunately, neither Smart or Globe has any Apple Watch LTE deals with Apple.
In a surprising, but we are not surprised, move, Apple announced their new service, Fitness+, which is not dissimilar to other subscription-based fitness programs in the market. This new service, which works best with an Apple Watch, allows you to stream workouts as supervised by professional trainers. What is different is its Apple Watch + Fitness+ + iOS/iPadOS/tvOS integration! When you start a workout session, your activity details (heart rate, calories burned, duration, distance, pace, etc.) are displayed on the bigger screen (iPhone, iPad or TV), including alerts, if and when you close those fitness rings! The Fitness+ won’t be available until later this year, and limited in select markets only. I think this is worth trying out — for the free one-month that Apple provides (three months free if you buy a Series 6 or SE).
Speaking of subscription, Apple announced their subscription bundle, the AppleOne. There are two different bundles, the Individual subscription that has Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB iCloud storage at PhP375/mo (a savings of PhP300), or the Family subscription (shared with five other family members) that has the same bundle but with 200GB of iCloud storage, and is priced at PhP495/mo. Unfortunately, the Premier bundle, which is an upgraded Family bundle at 2TB of iCloud storage plus News+ and Fitness+, at $29.95/mo, won’t be available in the Philippines *yet*. I am looking forward to these bundles!
The second product category covered in this event is the iPad — both the iPad and iPad Air. While I am not in the market for an iPad right now (I am still waiting for the 2020 iPad Pro delivery), the refresh of the 10.2 iPad with faster processors is very much welcome specially for students learning remotely from their teachers and peers. The iPad Air, however, is a huge upgrade — this is the first Apple product with the A14 Bionic chip. Usually, new chip models are released on the iPhones first, but this time, perhaps due to some supply chain scheduling issues, the iPad Air got it first. This iPad Air has a more powerful chip than the 2020 iPad Pro! The only advantages of the 2020 iPad Pro are FaceID (although the iPad Air comes with TouchID on the power button), the ProMotion display, a secondary camera with TrueTone flash, and the LIDAR sensor, IMHO. Did I mention that the iPad Air comes in 5 different colors? 🙂 Anyway, this is a solid iPad line-up for Apple, but I do wish that they did upgrade the iPad Mini as well.
These are all brand new, pricey products from Apple. One that is equally pricey, but at least in my current price range, is the new Apple Watch band! The Solo Loop (and the more expensive Braided Solo Loop, and other more expensive models) is a new band that is made up of a single piece of stretchable silicone rubber. I hope that they’re as good as advertised, though.
So there you have it. I am so looking forward to the AppleOne bundle, and receiving the Deep Navy Solo Loop, hopefully in two-three weeks. And one more thing, iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and watchOS 7 will officially be available tomorrow, September 17, 2020, Manila Time. I can’t wait to block all those trackers!