Apple unveiled a number of hardware products, including its latest generation of iPhones and a premium Apple Watch, as part of a “Far Out” presentation Wednesday.
The standard iPhone 14 comes in two sizes: the popular 6.1-inch design ($799) and a new Plus version with a 6.7-inch screen ($899) that’s intended to better accommodate video streaming and gaming. Higher-quality cameras, speedier 5G capabilities, longer-lasting battery life and digital SIM cards were some of the other perks highlighted.
There are also Pro ($999) and Pro Max ($1,099) versions of the 14 featuring a “dynamic island” that drops the notch from the design for an interactive interface. Among the Apple Watch options is the Apple Watch Ultra, a $799 smartwatch with tougher-wearing materials and features tailored to elite athletes and outdoor explorers.
Apple previewed a slew of gadgets hitting shelves in the weeks ahead at “Far Out,” but anyone anticipating a radical addition to the tech firm’s hardware lineup likely left disappointed. That said, the Cupertino, CA-based firm also kept costs in line with last year, allaying concerns around price hikes.
“This keynote and the new range of iPhone 14 flagship devices look a bit of déjà-vu and yes, being 15 years old, the iPhone is getting closer to becoming an adult and mature device benefiting mostly from what may be perceived as just incremental innovation,” said Thomas Husson, Forrester vice president and principal analyst, in emailed comments.
“However, the devil is in the details: Apple is incredibly good at making the total sum of these customer experience details a differentiated branded experience,” Husson added. “And more importantly in the context of rising inflation, a strong dollar, supply chain issues and geopolitical tensions, Apple masters better than anyone the art and science of pricing.”
The lack of major moves from Apple comes amid swirling rumors about the development of a “game-changer” AR/VR headset, self-driving cars and even a demand-side advertising platform that would pit the iPhone maker more squarely against Google and Facebook. Many industry watchers predicted a quiet showcase, with the expectation that bigger releases will be held for next year or later.
“I think a new immersive product and form factor will not happen before 2023,” Husson said in comments ahead of the show.
One of the most notable new offerings during the stream Wednesday was the Apple Watch Ultra, a more rugged — and considerably pricier — iteration of the wearable meant to endure intense activities like scuba diving, high-altitude hikes or long-distance runs in the desert.
Other wearables included the Apple Watch Series 8, which retails for $399 for the GPS model or $499 with a cellular plan, and the more bare-bones Apple Watch SE, which goes for $249 with GPS and $299 with cellular. The company also touted the second generation of its AirPods Pro wireless headphones ($249), which now carry richer spatial audio and noise-canceling options, a six-hour battery life and the ability to emit a sound to help owners find their case if it gets lost.
The iPhone remains Apple’s crown jewel on the mobile front, and the high-end Pro versions continue to push the limits of simplified interfaces. The latest iterations do away with the long-standing notch embedded at the top of screens in favor of a pill-shaped “dynamic island” that seeks to blend hardware and software closer together. The interactive module can be expanded to show more detailed information and adapts in real-time to manage alerts, notifications and other activities, many of which have custom animations.
Apple is marketing a bigger 6.7-inch screen with its Plus and Pro Max models that cater to people who spend time watching videos or playing video games on their phones. While the company was mum about any advertising plans, more expansive screen real estate would appeal to brands that are ramping up investments in mobile and digital. Online video, video streaming and social media stories are the top three channels primed to receive a net increase in budget allocations between this year and next, according to a recent Kantar survey of marketers.
Safety and privacy were also a theme during “Far Out.” Apple demonstrated new tech that allows its devices to connect with satellites for emergencies when WiFi or cellular signals are not available and a crash detection monitor that identifies when the user has been in a car accident and can notify authorities.