Like a lot of Apple nerds, I'm on a two-year cadence with my iPhone purchases and this means my iPhone 12 Pro I bought in 2020 is due for an upgrade this year. So I was pretty eager to see what Apple would announce today at their annual iPhone event.
But before we go any further, September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and for the past 4 years the fine folks at Relay FM podcast network put together a fundraising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. We all know a whole lot of us are about to drop an absurd amount of money on new tech that we definitely do not need. To steal the pitch from ATP: a new iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999 and then we add a couple of hundred bucks more on upgrades, accessories, and tax without giving it that much thought. So if you could spend $1,000+ on unnecessary gadgets, you can certainly throw at least a couple of hundred bucks at St. Jude. I can't think of a better cause to support to than this.
Apple Watch Series 8
The Apple Watch Series 8 is a bit underwhelming to be honest. The new temperature sensor is really neat and I love that they focused its use towards ovulation tracking. They didn't make it clear in the keynote whether we can use this sensor for general body temperature tracking. It makes sense that this would be limited to only measuring body temperature changes from the baseline and not absolute body temperature since the wrist is a terrible spot for that. That's really the only update to the Apple Watch which is why I'm likely not going to upgrade this year and just stick with my Series 6.
Side note: With its diversity and inclusion efforts, I found it a bit surprising that Apple did not use a more inclusive language when discussing menstrual and ovulation tracking. They exclusively refer to only women when talking about this feature when not every woman ovulates and women aren't the only people who ovulate. So hopefully they'll do better next time.
Apple Watch Ultra
The highlight of the event for me was the Apple Watch Ultra. I've seen the rumors for months now about this new "rugged" version of the Apple Watch and never really thought much about it as it didn't sound that applicable to my use. But it really impressed me. The coolest part of this Apple Watch Ultra is its ability to be a full-featured dive computer. Before I started wearing the Apple Watch I used to wear my analog watch when scuba diving, and since the Series 2 with its 50 meters water-resistance rating I've always thought it would be cool to wear my Apple Watch while diving and potentially use it as a dive computer. And this Apple Watch Ultra pretty much delivers on that.
It has the EN 13319 certification which makes it a proper dive computer. This upcoming Oceanic+ app sounds like it's going to be doing the heavy-lifting here. They say the app will handle calculating no-decompression limits, safety stops, and providing ascent rate warning. The bare minimum for a dive computer. I love that it also tracks water temperature, GPS locations, and dive profile and can sync all that to your iPhone. Though I couldn't find any mention of no-fly time or nitrox so they might not be supported yet at launch. But the beauty of this being a smart watch is that I don't see a reason why Oceanic couldn't provide future updates to add support for those and other functionalities.
I'm curious if they're going to provide an API for developers to access data from the depth gauge and develop apps for diving purposes. Or perhaps this could also be a partnership just with Oceanic since they're a reputable company with a history of making dive computers who know what they're doing. Allowing any third-party developer to access this data to develop apps for such a critical purpose might not be a very smart thing to do.
This is also only rated for 40 meters (130 feet) which is right around the limit for recreational diving. For comparison my Suunto Zoop Novo, which is also for recreational diving, is rated for 80 meters and has no-fly time and nitrox. Its CR 2450 battery also lasts years compared to just a couple of days at most for the Ultra. If I were to get this $800 Apple Watch and use it for scuba diving, I would still bring my $300 Suunto dive computer down with me just for peace of mind.
Aside from the diving capabilities, the Ultra has a pretty cool new compass app that not only lets you mark waypoints but also keeps track of your GPS locations so that you can retrace your steps. They also really try to sell this for off-the-grid kind of adventures, but the supposed 36 hours battery life is comical for trips like those.
As someone who enjoys hiking in the mountains and scuba diving, I feel like this would be perfect for me. But it's really bulky so I don't think it will work as a day-to-day watch. It's also as expensive as the base iPhone 14. So I don't think I'm going to be getting this any time soon.
AirPods Pro 2
I love the original AirPods Pro and have been using them almost daily for the past three years. Most people who bought them a few years back would probably feel the pain of the reduced battery life by now. But I recently had mine replaced due to sound issues so the batteries on them are still fresh. This means I don't really have a reason to upgrade.
The 2x noise cancellation sounds great. But the current one already sounds so good, I can't imagine what doubling that would be like. Adding the capacitive touch to the stems for volume adjustment is for sure a big quality-of-life improvement. Allowing charging via Apple Watch charger or MagSafe gets a big thumbs up from me.
All in all, a decent update when looking at them together. I don't really see any single feature that makes me want to get these right away. I'm probably going to wait a while before upgrading.
I'm glad they finally bring the larger size to the non-Pro iPhone. Also I think this is the first time ever on a brand-new iPhone that it doesn't get a new chip. But I think for those buying the regular iPhone 14, they probably wouldn't notice (or care about) a performance difference anyway. The camera upgrade looks like it's going to take much better low-light photos.
The emergency SOS via satellite is really a nice feature to have that you hope you never need. This and the car crash detection in both the Apple Watch and the iPhone make for pretty interesting marketing messages. The Find My via satellite feature sounds much more useful to me. They say this is available for free for the first two years but didn't reveal how much it will cost after that. I'm guessing it's going to be included in either iCloud+ or Apple One bundle.
Gone is the SIM tray as it now only supports eSIM, at least in the US. I'm really annoyed by this removal as it's going to be such a pain in the rear to travel abroad.
iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone 13 Pro's camera bump (mesa?) is already too big. And it's even bigger on the 14 Pro. It's now more than half the thickness of the body itself! This has gotten way out of hand and it has to stop. As good as the cameras might be, they’re not worth this obnoxious design imperfection. I just want my phone to be able to sit flat without wobbling, and cases won't fix that either. I really hope this is the end of it and that they move to periscope lens design or something else that get rid of this bump in future iterations.
The 48MP is a huge jump from 12MP, but the 4x increase makes sense with their use of the quad-pixel sensor. It also looks like the Pro has the exact same camera system as the Pro Max model which is great for me as I cannot do with the Max size. I hope they keep it this way in coming years.
The rumors were spot-on with the hole-punch notch dubbed "Dynamic Island". I think it has one big regression from the notch: compared to the iPhone 14's notch, the screen space intruded on by this pill is quite a bit lower than the notch. So you end up getting less usable vertical screen real estate. We'll find out when it's actually out and in people's hands to see how much of an issue that is. Still, the software for it is so clever and I can't wait to see what developers are going to do with it. It also looks like it's not just the screen surrounding the hole-punch that is tappable but the hole-punch itself as well. The fact that they put so much thought and attention into this made me a bit discouraged since that probably means this design imperfection is not going anywhere any time soon.
The always-on display has been pretty obvious since WWDC earlier this year with the introduction of the Lock Screen widgets. This is a long-overdue feature as it's been available on Android phones for a while now.
Unfortunately the colors of these Pro iPhones are so dull and boring again this year. I just want some fun colors for my iPhone. I'm probably going to get the deep purple one as that's the most fun color we have.