Christmas morning finally came for investors eager to set their eyes on the latest Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) gadgets, as the company unveiled its updates for the iPhone and Apple TV lines and showed off the highly anticipated iPad Pro in its event last week. What new features do these products boast, and how do they stack up against what is already on the market?
A full transcript follows the video.
Sean O'Reilly: Apple keeps bringing out features that Steve Jobs would have hated, on this tech edition of Industry Focus.
Greetings, Fools! I am Sean O'Reilly, recording here at Fool headquarters in Alexandria, Va. Joining me today is the singular Dylan Lewis. How's it going today, Dylan?
Dylan Lewis: Harkening on the fact that I'm single. I appreciate it, Sean.
O'Reilly: I meant, by singular, "awesome" and "exceptional."
Lewis: A stand-out.
O'Reilly: Ladies, Dylan is on the market.
Lewis: If this voice is doing anything for you ...
O'Reilly: They might be watching the video. We're reviewing this week's Apple event because everybody else is, and this is a tech show so we have to. The world's biggest tech company didn't come out with anything new or special this week, or anything.
Lewis: Yeah, only three brand-new products. Three refurbishes on products.
O'Reilly: First and foremost, the event was over 2.5 hours. We'll try to keep this episode under two hours, God willing.
Lewis: We'll shoot for 15 minutes.
O'Reilly: We'll shoot for 15 minutes; we might go over. What are the products? Then we'll dive in a little bit.
Lewis: The refreshes that we saw were Apple TV, which we got an update on, so we'll get into that. Of course, the newest edition of the iPhone was unveiled; the 6s and the 6s Plus. As many people anticipated, we saw the first glimpses of the iPad Pro.
O'Reilly: I'm most excited about the Apple TV, because a lot of the features that I saw were awesome. What can you tell me about that?
Lewis: The functionality looked very cool on the Apple TV. They unveiled the latest edition of the Apple TV. The 32GB model is going to debut at $150, the 64GB around $200.
O'Reilly: That's so reasonable.
Lewis: Right? This is something people have expected for a while. People thought in June we'd be seeing something, but it's been delayed a bit. I think one of the most impressive things that I saw was the Siri integration and some of the advanced nav that we're getting through that.
O'Reilly: I see where they were like "Get me only Vin Diesel movies," and then they pulled it all up and they were like, "Who's in the cast?" It pulled up IMDb and everything. It was really cool.
Lewis: Yeah. That was really impressive. I think that's an awesome tool and a big selling point for people. I think one of the big things with the presentation was that the company made it pretty clear that the future of TV is apps, at least for them. You saw with the demos, everything they were showcasing in terms of functionality centered around this app-based approach to television.
O'Reilly: I'm kind of surprised that I didn't see this coming, because when my wife and I got married in 2012, with part of our wedding money we bought a new 42-inch LG TV. It was the first Internet-based TV I'd ever owned.
Lewis: A smart TV.
O'Reilly: A smart TV, yeah. I've got the wand and it's got the Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) app, but there's a bunch of apps on there, including ones for games. I'm seeing where our society is going with the TV stuff. Is this a threat to gaming at all?
Lewis: I don't think so. Some of the stuff that they showed during the presentation were iOS-supported games. They weren't console games. It's a simpler level of gaming.
O'Reilly: So it's like Tetris and not anything ...
Lewis: Yeah. I forget the name of the game that they featured, but it was essentially like a souped-up Frogger. That's cool, and that's the kind of game that kids love, so there might be a selling point there for families, but I don't expect that this is going to ...
O'Reilly: You're not going to have a party around this, or anything?
Lewis: I think it's similar to the Nintendo Wii, and the functionality of the Siri remote looks a lot like the Wii-mote. I don't think it's going to lend itself very well to some of the more advanced gaming that we're seeing on dedicated consoles like the Xbox 360, or the latest PlayStation.
O'Reilly: Moving on to the iPad Pro, the universe has been talking about the iPad Pro for a little over a year now. There was always talk about -- Tim Cook had stated publicly that everyone should work on an iPad. Of course you think that, Tim Cook. You're the CEO of Apple. What can you tell us about it? How big is it? Why would Steve Jobs hate it?
Lewis: Yes, they unveiled the highly anticipated iPad Pro. The 32GB model is going to come out around $800; the 128GB is going to be around $950. We're looking at a 12.9-inch display; basically what you'd expect from a laptop.
O'Reilly: Its bigger than the Surface Pro 3.
Lewis: Yeah. Some of the features: There's touch ID technology for fingerprint recognition, which I think is pretty cool.
O'Reilly: That's my favorite feature of this guy.
Lewis: Oh, yeah?
O'Reilly: The fingerprint.
Lewis: I'm still in the dark ages of the 5. Waiting for my upgrade.
O'Reilly: They upgraded you. We can talk about it.
Lewis: We'll get there. They also have four high-fidelity speakers that also adjust based on how you're holding the device, which I think is pretty cool.
O'Reilly: That was the coolest feature that I saw. It's got four speakers on each side, and it basically creates a surround-sound effect with the iPad. It isn't like the regular way I consume entertainment, but my wife and I have an iPad Mini, and I'll watch an episode of Netflix if the baby's running around.
Lewis: Yeah. It's an easy, quick screen to have in front of you. I do think this looks more like an enterprise product than your average consumer product. I think you saw some of that with how they were featuring the product, and the demos. The split-screen functionality seems to lend itself very well to productivity apps and multi-tasking and things like that. That's something we're going to see with iOS 9.
O'Reilly: I don't know how much of the presentation you watched. I didn't catch the iPad Pro portion, but did they say specifically "For all you business users"? Did they target anybody, or verbally say anything?
Lewis: No, but one of the demos was looking at a Photoshop type approach. That's clearly a design use, and I think that among designers, people that are regularly using tablets already; the iPad Pro is probably a great product. I don't know that mainstream users are going to latch onto it the same way. We can get into that a bit more when we talk about some of the pricing.
Some of the other add-ons here that Apple highlighted: there's a smart keyboard that they're launching, which is a $170 add-on. There's a case keyboard for the iPad Pro; they have this very cool smart connector technology. It's a wireless, port-less approach to connecting the keyboard to the device itself. It almost looks like three little bumps that they hook up to. It turns your laptop into a 2-in-1 device or turns it into a laptop imitator.
And of course, the Apple Pencil.
O'Reilly: If Steve Jobs were here -- I wonder if they referenced this at all in the movie they just came out with Michael Fassbender. "I hate styluses! What's wrong with everybody?" Steve Jobs supposedly would not have liked this feature. What's your opinion on that?
Lewis: After this news came out you saw a lot of tech outlets -- they unveiled the Apple Pencil as a $100 add-on that's basically a stylus for the iPad Pro. It seems to me that this is something oriented more toward power users, people that are using it for design, doing annotative markups for reports, or office work.
My interpretation of that Jobs quote is, that's more about general device navigation. The thing that he said was, "If you see a stylus, they blew it." I'm paraphrasing. I think that's more about if you need a stylus to navigate the device, then it's a failure. But if you're adding the stylus so there's extra functionality; then I think it's OK.
O'Reilly: It was literally used as a pencil 10 years ago.
Lewis: Yeah. With the smaller screens that you saw on some of those PDAs.
O'Reilly: Yeah, that was nuts, 10, 15 years ago ...
Lewis: The stylus of then is not what we're seeing with the Apple Pencil now. I think that's an out-of-context comparison. I've seen a lot of people make it, but I don't see it. I think it's a great add-on. If people are using it for enterprise or design work, I think it's a very natural integration to the product.
O'Reilly: Cool. Talk to me about pricing. The iPad Pro, even with the case/keyboard add on, which is $170, it's still cheaper than a Surface Pro 3.
Lewis: Yeah. I think that's interesting.
O'Reilly: Who would have thought that Apple would be the cheaper product? I've never seen this before.
Lewis: Yeah. You looked into the specs a bit more. Would you say they're pretty comparable?
O'Reilly: They are. Apple iOS 9, I'm actually surprised that the Surface Pro 3 didn't note any upgrades to 10, but the screen pixels per inch: 264 ppi, versus 216 on the Surface Pro 3. The screen is bigger, it weighs less at 1.57 pounds versus 1.76 pounds for the Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Surface Pro 3. 1.2 megapixels on the front, 8 megapixel rear-facing camera; 5 megapixel front camera on the Surface Pro 3 and only 1080 on the rear facing.
Pound for pound, it looked like a better machine. I thought they could make more money and price it at $999. I didn't know what they were going for here.
Lewis: Yeah. It's interesting. Another point to make up the price point that they're launching this at, and another reason I think maybe there's a limited use here is, you look at the MacBook Air line and you can get a base level 13-inch, 128GB MacBook Air for $1,000. To get the 128GB iPad Pro you're dropping to $950; add on the smart keyboard and that's another $170.
O'Reilly: It's almost like they actually thought their MacBook Air is $1,000 and didn't know what to do.
Lewis: I think most people are going to stick with laptops, but I think this is probably a breath of fresh air into a sluggish product line, for the iPads.
O'Reilly: Yeah, it's breathing a bit of air. OK. On to the main event, particularly if you're a wireless carrier. Before we move on, I want to make everybody aware of a very special offer for all of Industry Focus listeners. If you found this discussion informative, and you're looking for more Foolish stock ideas, Stock Advisor may be the service for you. It is our flagship newsletter started more than 10 years ago by Motley Fool co-founders Tom and David Gardner.
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Apple's main event this week was their release of the Apple iPhone 6s. Mom, if you're listening, this one's for you. What can my mother expect, Dylan?
Lewis: We're looking at pretty similar form factors to what we saw with the 6 and the 6 Plus. Visually they look very similar. Most of the stuff that you'll see is going to be under the hood, in terms of differences, and some OS functionality because of what's under the hood.
O'Reilly: Obviously, a faster processor. What else functionally can I see? I was noticing that there were a lot of software differences and things with the menu options.
Lewis: I think one of the things that people are most excited about with this -- and this is something that was expected by a lot of outlets -- the 3D touch functionality. This is something that most people have colloquially referred to as "force touch" in the lead-up to the event. I guess Apple decided to rebrand it as 3D touch.
Basically, this is pressure-sensitivity functionality. Depending on how hard you're pushing down on your screen, your device will pick up on that and react differently.
O'Reilly: No doubt that adapts to the different type of person that's pressing on there.
Lewis: I think people might have to do a little calibrating once they start using the devices.
O'Reilly: Arnold Schwarzenegger would push a little harder than my grandmother.
Lewis: A couple of cracked screens, perhaps.
O'Reilly: It's kind of cool because you can get a preview of emails. That's kind of slick.
Lewis: I think that's going to be the biggest use for this type of functionality. We're going to see a lot of preview, or shortcut type stuff in the OS. One of the things they highlighted in the demo was if you have a text with an address in there like "Meet me at 766 Princeton Pl" or something like that, you put your finger on 766 Princeton Place, put a little more pressure, and a map pops up as a preview.
It doesn't take you away from the app that you're in; it's just a pop-up over it. I like to think of it the same way that we have hover functionality when we're using our cursor on desktop and how it doesn't take you away from the underlying page that you're on; it just flashes up there in case it's something that you want more information on.
O'Reilly: It's OK if you didn't catch this -- I didn't even know if they mentioned it in the event -- but Siri in a lot of previews seems to be reliant on the Internet connection you have available a lot of the time, especially previewing a map of something. Did they mention how reliant, and how necessary it would be to be on Wi-Fi to get these kind of previews?
Lewis: Not that I heard, but I have seen that -- I think that one of the frustrations that some people have with their iPhone is that there's this battle between using Wi-Fi and using cell data. From what I understand, this new launch of phones is going to be a bit smarter about that. If they see that you're on a low-bar Internet connection that is really struggling, it will either kick over to something that's better or switch over to data.
O'Reilly: So they're aware of the struggles of the average American consumer.
Lewis: Yes. Some of the other big updates: I think a lot of people are going to be happy to see a camera update. They're going to have a 12 megapixel camera that captures 4K video, which is pretty awesome.
O'Reilly: That's staggering.
Lewis: Yeah. Just for context, this is a much needed improvement. They've been running with an 8 megapixel camera for the last couple of years and there hasn't been an update there. so it's really nice to see them make a change there.
O'Reilly: That's been a major criticism of the iPhone. All these other phones from Samsung have better cameras.
Lewis: I'm sure we'll continue to see those staggering photos with the little "shot on an iPhone 6S" in other advertisements because they love to do that, especially now with a better camera on there.
O'Reilly: Naturally. Talk to me about pricing before we sign off here.
Lewis: They're going to retail at $650 for the 16GB 6s, and the 6s Plus 16GB is going to retail for $750. I think one of the interesting things with the cell-phone landscape and carrier landscape right now is, Verizon is ditching its subsidy model. That's something that's going to impact ...
O'Reilly: That's a tectonic shift. We need to do another show about that now.
Lewis: Yeah. It's going to have a huge impact on high-priced luxury phones. That's where Apple operates. One of the things we saw with this demo and the whole event is the preview of the Apple Payment Plan. This will allow people to get on a 24-month payment plan for these devices.
O'Reilly: With Apple Care.
Lewis: With Apple Care. I think this really appeals to people that are looking for the latest phone every year. I think what some carriers are looking to appeal to right now is the "always getting an iPhone" thing and you're on the monthly installment plan. The Verge did a pretty good breakdown of this.
Apple Payment Plan for the two devices I talked about would run $32.45 and $37.45 per month, respectively. That comes out to just under $780 and $890 over the 24 months. Compare that to the device retail of $650 and $750; you're paying a considerable premium to have Apple Care insurance and the latest iPhone.
One of the things that's really interesting to watch with this is, it's not clear if every time you get a new iPhone you're then put onto another 24 month agreement. That would make sense, right? Or you would have to somehow pay off, or pay out of the program. I think this is another brilliant way that Apple is keeping people tethered to their devices and keeping people in their ecosystem, because it's this recurring stream.
O'Reilly: Cool. Thanks for your thoughts, Dylan.
Lewis: Always a pleasure, Sean.
O'Reilly: Have a good one.
Lewis: You, too!
O'Reilly: If you are a loyal listener and have questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that's email@example.com. As always, people on this program may have interests in the stocks that they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against those stocks. So don't buy or sell anything based solely on what you hear on this program. For Dylan Lewis, I'm Sean O'Reilly. Thanks for listening, and Fool on!
Dylan Lewis owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Apple and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.