Even though much of the content at this year's Apple autumn event was expected, there were still a few delightful surprises and unexpected details throughout the event.
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iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus
First, let's talk about the iPhone 15 series. The major upgrades for the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus include a 48-megapixel main camera similar to last year's 14 Pro, as well as the A16 chip. The design features a decentralized smart island, curved frame for better grip, and the long-awaited USB-C interface.
Attendees at the conference praised the phone's high-quality appearance, particularly the pink color that appeals to many iPhone users who prefer not to use phone cases.
The screen specifications are quite impressive as well. The Super Retina XDR OLED screen supports Dolby Vision and has an HDR peak brightness of 1,600 nits, with a staggering light peak brightness of 2,000 nits. However, it is worth noting that contrary to previous claims about battery life, the iPhone 15 Plus does not feature a high refresh rate despite having a larger battery. This realization might make people feel deceived by the earlier misinformation.
In today's world of 2023, it seems a bit excessive for a phone priced at $799 to lack a high refresh rate.
When it comes to the lens specifications of the iPhone 15, there isn't much to discuss. The 48-megapixel main lens from the previous Pro model has been shifted to the iPhone 15, along with an ultra-wide-angle lens.
Surprisingly, the main lens now supports 2x digital crop zoom, giving the impression of having a third camera, even though it lacks a dedicated telephoto lens. This description may seem a bit unrealistic.
However, the iPhone 15 does have an exciting update - it finally adopts the legendary tiny USB-C Port. This development has left dual-wielding enthusiasts ecstatic, as they can now conquer the world with the convenience of the USB-C Port.
Meanwhile, the AirPods Pro 2 has also received an update with the addition of a tiny USB-C Port. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to purchase a new AirPods Pro 2 charging case just for the C-port.
In terms of pricing, the iPhone 15 starts at $799, while the iPhone 15 Plus starts at $899, both with a minimum storage capacity of 128GB. The overall price has slightly increased compared to the previous generation.
As for features like the titanium alloy frame, improved telephoto lens, chip, and the new Action Button, these will be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro model.
iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max
Now, let's move on to the highlight of today, the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max.
For the Pro series this time, Apple has utilized the same titanium material found in the Ultra watch to build the frame. According to Apple officials, this titanium-aluminum alloy material, which is also used in the Mars rover, gives the Pro models a stronger industrial texture while reducing the weight of the iPhone 15 Pro by 200g. Finally, it no longer feels like carrying around a "half a pound brick". However, it is slightly thicker compared to the previous generation.
Attendees at the event expressed their delight in the lightweight and irresistible feel of the Pro models, claiming they couldn't put them down once they touched them.
The most significant change in the Pro version this time is Apple's decision to replace the mute switch with an operation switch called the Action button. This switch can be assigned to nine basic functions, including voice recording, camera switching, flashlights, and other commonly used mobile phone functions. It also allows for shortcut commands, which can be launched through customized settings with just one click. For example, making phone calls or scanning QR codes for payments or transportation can all be achieved using this method. If you prefer a different action for the button, you can still mute the sound through the Control Center or use the Focus Mode filter to automatically silence the iPhone.
A17 Pro Chip – Best Graphic Performance
As for performance improvements, the Pro version features the industry's first 3nm A17 Pro chip with 19 billion transistors in its process. Coincidentally, alongside the M-series chips on Macs, now even the A-series chips on iPhones follow the Pro naming convention.
There is an unreliable speculation that Apple may have renamed the A17 as the A17 Pro due to initial yield issues with TSMC's 3nm process, resulting in weaker-performing "defective chips". Perhaps Apple thought of repurposing those chips and naming them A17 for future use, like in the iPad mini.
Getting back to the point, the A17 Pro offers a 10% performance improvement over the previous generation A16 chip, with a neural network engine capable of processing 3.5 billion operations per second for machine learning tasks.
The integrated USB controller in this chip enables the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max with USB-C ports to meet USB 3 specifications, allowing for a transmission rate of up to 10Gb/s. This ultimately boosts the speed of wired data transfer for Apple devices.
In this iteration, Apple has made significant enhancements to the GPU of the A17 Pro chip. They have introduced a new shader architecture, focusing on graphics energy efficiency and enhancing the performance of complex applications and rendering capabilities. The maximum performance of the six-core GPU has seen a 20% increase.
Additionally, the A17 Pro chip now supports the light tracing feature, which was absent in the previous A16 chip. Although there are currently limited mobile games that utilize hardware light tracing acceleration, Apple's collaboration with game companies like MiHoYo, Capcom, and Ubisoft suggests that more games will be able to incorporate this function in the future. Excitingly, popular titles such as "Assassin's Creed: Fantasy" and "Resident Evil 4: Reset" may be playable directly on the iPhone 15 Pro.
Camera – Worth the Upgrade?
Moving to imaging capabilities, Apple has improved upon the specifications of the previous generation's 4800W main camera and optimized portrait shooting performance in low light using advanced algorithms. Additionally, the highly anticipated periscope telephoto lens has been introduced, but exclusively for the iPhone 15 Pro Max. This lens offers 5x zoom and a 120mm equivalent focal length, whereas the standard iPhone 15 Pro features a 3x telephoto lens.
Notably, Apple has taken a unique approach to the periscope telephoto lens. Unlike most Android phones that incorporate "one-fold" or "two-fold" periscopes with a maximum of two refracted light paths, Apple's design involves a four-fold optical path. This design allows the light path to be folded in four parts within the phone, similar to Huawei's P40 Pro+. Huawei had previously achieved a four-fold optical path for 10x super telephoto capability, but it was a complex and challenging endeavor. Apple's adoption of a similar design is remarkable, highlighting their innovation in this area.
With the inclusion of the periscope lens, the iPhone 15 Pro Max boasts the most powerful imaging capabilities among Apple's current offerings. The camera capabilities of the Pro Max significantly outperform those of the standard Pro model, raising questions about whether Apple will continue this differentiated configuration in future iterations.
In terms of pricing, the iPhone 15 Pro series retains the same starting prices as last year's 14 Pro, indicating no price increase despite the enhancements. However, the iPhone 15 Pro Max is priced higher. The Pro series offers four color options, with the original titanium finish being the standout choice, according to reviewers.
Apple Watch Series 9
Now that we have covered the major updates regarding the mobile phone, let's briefly touch upon the latest news about the Apple Watch.
During the Apple autumn conference, two new watches were introduced: the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2. While the design and size of these watches remain the same, they have received upgrades in terms of performance and smart functions.
The most significant upgrade is the introduction of the new S9 chip. This chip contains 5.6 billion transistors, a 60% increase compared to the previous S8 chip. It is the most powerful chip used in an Apple Watch to date. To accommodate this chip, Apple has redesigned the internal structure of the watch.
With the improved chip performance, Siri on the Apple Watch can now process voice commands locally without requiring an internet connection. The dictation accuracy of Siri has also increased by 25% compared to the previous generation. Additionally, Apple has opened up more permissions, allowing users to ask Siri to check sleep duration, record weight, and track menstrual periods.
An interesting feature that has been introduced is gesture operation. By tapping the index finger and thumb of the hand wearing the Apple Watch, users can perform functions such as playing/pausing music, answering/hanging up calls, and stopping alarms. This one-handed operation adds convenience to the user experience.
The new Apple Watch also includes a second-generation ultra-wideband chip, enabling users to locate their iPhones using the watch and vice versa. When the watch is in close proximity to HomePod, it automatically displays the playback menu. The watch can also be used to share business cards by bringing two watches closer together.
Both the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 have seen improvements in screen brightness. The Series 9 can reach up to 2000 nits of brightness, while the Ultra 2 can achieve a brightness of up to 3000 nits.
Despite these upgrades, the battery life of the watches remains unchanged. The Series 9 has a regular battery life of 18 hours, while the Ultra 2 can last 36 hours in standard mode and 72 hours in low-power mode.
In terms of color options, the aluminum alloy version of the Apple Watch Series 9 introduces a new pink color, while the stainless steel version maintains its original three colors: gold, silver, and graphite. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 comes in a titanium primary color and has three new straps.
The price of the Apple Watch Series 9 starts at $399, the same as the previous generation. The Ultra 2 starts at $799, which is a $50 increase compared to its predecessor.
Overall, the upgrades in this year's Apple Watch are relatively routine, with stronger chips, brighter screens, and improved gesture control. Notably, the long-awaited non-invasive blood glucose detection feature was not included in this generation. It is expected that Apple may save major innovations for the 10th anniversary release of the Apple Watch next year.
During the conference, a short film featuring Cook and titled "Mother Nature" was shown, highlighting Apple's commitment to environmental protection. The film depicted Cook receiving Mother Nature, who inspected Apple's headquarters to evaluate the company's environmental efforts. Apple successfully completed the assessment, demonstrating its dedication to environmental protection.
To address the issue of environmental protection, Apple has taken a significant step by creating a short film specifically focused on this matter. This film highlighted Apple's commitment to environmental initiatives, showcasing the company's efforts in reducing carbon emissions and achieving carbon neutrality.
The announcement of the Apple Watch Series 9 being Apple's first-ever carbon-neutral product demonstrates the company's dedication to energy conservation and emission reduction. Carbon neutrality involves offsetting the carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions through various methods, resulting in relative zero emissions.
Apple has implemented several measures to achieve carbon neutrality, such as using recyclable materials in the body of the Apple Watch Series 9, utilizing 100% recycled cobalt batteries, and creating sports straps made from 82% recycled yarn. The packaging of the watch is made entirely of fiber material, and transportation methods have also been optimized to reduce emissions. Additionally, the manufacturing process is powered by 100% clean electricity.
Furthermore, Apple is investing in renewable energy projects worldwide, enabling users to charge their watches with clean energy. The suggestion for solar-powered watches aligns with the goal of being environmentally friendly and addressing battery life concerns.
Worth the Upgrade or Not?
In terms of purchasing advice, if you already own the previous generation Apple Watch or the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra, there is no urgent need to upgrade. However, for those who have not yet purchased the Ultra, it is recommended to opt for the second-generation Ultra.
Similarly, if you currently own an iPhone 13 Pro or 14 Pro, you can continue using it for a while longer. However, if you are using the standard version or an older model, and have the budget, it is advisable to consider the iPhone 15 Pro Max. This model offers a comprehensive configuration and exclusive features, such as a 120mm periscope lens.
It is worth noting that the long-awaited USB-C is now available, but this also means that the classic accessory, the USB-C to Lightning adapter, is required as an additional purchase.
Although the USB-C evolution has been achieved for the iPhone, there are still some Apple devices, such as the AirPods Max, Apple Pencil (first-generation), and Lightning interface EarPods, that have not undergone this transition.
Overall, Apple's efforts toward environmental protection and carbon neutrality are commendable, and while there are still steps to be taken, this is a significant stride forward.
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