Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) product announcements have all the wonder of Christmas morning for a child.
You might think you know what you're going to get, but the end result is never quite what you predicted. Sometimes that can be a big positive surprise, and on rare occasions, it can be a letdown.
For its Sept. 9 event, people went in with mostly modest expectations, looking for a refreshed iPhone, but nothing too radical, new Apple TV hardware, and a larger iPad. Anything more would be a shock, and anything less would be a disappointment.
What the company actually delivered fell somewhere in the middle. There were surprises, but nothing that hadn't been heavily rumored beforehand. So, while CEO Tim Cook did not deliver a car or a subscription television service, he did not disappoint.
Cook believes in Apple Watch
The CEO kicked off the event with little preamble, delivering a glowing review of how much customers love using the latest Apple product. "Apple Watch is helping our users live a better day," he said of the device's health monitoring service. "Closing those rings has become an obsession."
He also claimed customer satisfaction of 97% for the watch and said the company was on an incredible pace of innovation with the product. Cook then brought Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, to the stage, and he announced that there are now 10,000 apps for Apple Watch.
He announced a number of new apps and features, including one that controls GoPro cameras and Facebook Messenger. In addition, the company gave major play to Airstrip, a health app designed for use in hospitals and between doctors and patients. The app allows physicians to monitor and communicate with patients in heretofore impossible ways.
"We can't wait to see what else developers do," Williams said before announcing that Apple is now working on high-end watch designs with Hermes. The new watches will be available in select stores in October.
The company also has a number of other new Apple Watch models that it plans to have on sale for the holiday season, some of which are shipping immediately.
"It's incredible, and we've got some great new looks," Cook said.
iPad goes big
"iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing," Cook began. "A simple multi-touch piece of glass that instantly transforms into anything you want it to be."
He said the new iPad had the biggest display of any iPad ever made. He emphasized the fact that the new 12.9-inch screen allowed for a full-size digital keyboard. "It's 2732 by 2748 pixels. That's 5.6M pixels, more than on a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display," Schiller added.
The exec said the CPU used on the device makes it faster than 80% of the portable PCs on the market. Schiller used the term "desktop-class performance" more than once before saying that the Pro offers 10 hours of battery life. It also has a four-speaker audio system that balances between left and right depending upon how you are holding it.
The most shocking announcement may have been a physical keyboard: the Smart Keyboard. "It's unlike any keyboard you have used before," Schiller said. The new keyboard attaches via a "smart connector" -- three new magnetic circles on the side of the device that carry power and data.
Apple also introduced a Stylus, dubbed Apple Pencil, which is something it has been resistant to doing in the past. The Pencil costs $99, while the Smart Keyboard is $169. iPad Pro will start at $799 for 32GB with WiFi, or 128GB for $949.
Apple TV is now about apps
"The TV experience itself hasn't changed that much in decades," Cook said, adding that the industry has been standing still. "Today we are going to do something about that."
That bold proclamation led the CEO to say that the "future of TV is apps" before introducing the new Apple TV. The most notable feature of the intro video was that the interface was Siri-based, with voice control prominently shown off.
Cook then brought on stage Apple executive Eddie Cue, who showed off a new Bluetooth remote control, saying everything starts "with voice and with touch." The new remote, which does not need to be pointed at the set-top box, has a glass touch area and a button that activates Siri. The voice assistant can search for content across a number of apps, presenting all of your choices on a single screen.
Siri also allows users to execute commands such as "skip forward seven minutes." It also has a feature that allows users to see what they might have missed, reversing 30 seconds, and temporarily activating captions. The voice control has an impressive array of search options, from "show me some action movies," to "what are some movies I can watch with kids?"
Of course, the new Apple TV also has an app store (the previous model was a closed environment), and it offers access to Apple Music.
The company has also created a developers' kit that will allow for the creation of dedicated apps, and for the porting of existing ones. This includes a number of games, including some higher-end options, something the previous Apple TV box did not offer.
The new Apple TV will cost $149 for a 32GB model, and $199 for a 64GB version. It goes on sale in October.
iPhone gets touchy
Cook began the lead-in to the new iPhone by highlighting the product's growth around the world -- specifically its 75% increase in China.
"These are the most popular phones in the world," Cook said. "More important to us, these are the most loved phones." He then introduced a video showing off the newest models, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. "We have changed everything about these new iPhones," Cook added. "They are the most advanced smartphones in the world."
Schiller then retook the stage to show off the new models, highlighting the new "rose gold" finish before showing off new features. He also noted the new glass covering, which he called "the strongest in the industry."
The key new feature, however, is a take on Apple's Force Touch technology. Dubbed "3D Touch," the new technology allows for familiar gestures and recognizes force -- how hard you hit the screen. "3D Touch works on the homescreen, giving you shortcuts to the things you do frequently," the video said. "Press lightly and it gives you a peek of the content. Keep pressing and it pops you into the content itself."
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus will have a new chip powering them, the A9, which the company called its fastest ever. It's a third-generational 64-bit chip with new transistor architecture to make it faster and more energy-efficient. Apple claims it "delivers a big jump in performance. Seventy percent faster than A8 at CPU tasks. GPU tasks, 90% faster." The A9 also has a motion co-processor that's always on. It also powers a new feature, "Hey, Siri," which can be accessed completely verbally.
Apple has also improved the camera on the new iPhone models with a 12MP model it's calling the iSight camera. In addition, it has improved the front-facing FaceTime camera, a 5MP model for taking selfies and chatting with friends.
The new iPhone models will start at $199 for the 16GB 6S, and $299 for the 6S Plus on a traditional two-year contract (which only AT&T still offers). It will also be sold on an installment basis at varying prices depending upon wireless carrier. Apple is also offering upgrades through its own store, offering unlocked phones starting at $32 a month. Pre-orders in the U.S. start Sept. 12, and the phone will ship Sept. 25.
Click here for links to Apple's press releases about the day's announcements.