Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! (Cue heart attack.) After years without covering a live Apple Keynote, I caught this year’s Apple Special Event live. This keynote introduced plenty of new surprises, including the new iPhone X, while at the same time restoring my faith in both Apple and the promise of technology in general.
Before I explain, you owe it to yourself to watch the keynote. Click here, do so and come back. I’ll wait.
A Little Background
I have long considered myself a member of Team Apple. I’m a former Mac owner, I’ve been a proud iPhone user since the iPhone 3 and have happily enjoyed my iPhone 5 for some time. Yet for years, I’ve decided to ignore Apple’s keynote events. It wasn’t just the fact that those were never the same after the death of Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder. (Even though Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, has done a fine job after his passing.) I just could not shake the feeling that Apple as a company has been playing catch-up with their competition rather than the other way around. They’ve introduced many advances, sure—Touch ID, Retina display, Apple Watch, Airpods—but none gave me a compelling enough reason to upgrade my trusty workhorse of a smartphone to a newer model.
My wife’s iPhone 5 has been slowly dying for months and she (an even more hardcore user than I) needs a new one. I reasoned that, should a new iPhone be introduced at the show, the price of the iPhone SE would go down. So, I wound up watching the Apple Special Event live at my work laptop, having absolutely no expectations. The iPhone SE did get cheaper since two new units were introduced—the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X—and I forgot the last time I actually felt this excited about a gadget.
The iPhone Prestige
Instead of burying the lede, let me just address the reason why anyone watched this keynote: Apple’s two new iPhone reveals. First came the iPhone 8, which for all intents an purposes is simply a better version of the iPhone 7. They introduced its two sizes, 4.7-inch regular and 5.5-inch Plus. They showcased all its bells and whistles. A11 Bionic processor. Near-indestructible waterproof glass housing. Qi wireless charging capabilities. Nifty new camera features. Augmented Reality this-and-that, an so on. It was efficient, by-the-numbers and, to say the least, pretty much what everyone expected. Little did we know Tim Cook and his team were roping us in with same-old-same-old.
Then, taking a page from his mentor’s book, Cook paused for a moment to utter the three words that Jobs used every time he was about to blow our minds: “One more thing…” And he unveiled what time-traveling singularities from the future carry in their pockets.
iPhone X: Every Smartphone Innovation Rolled Into One
The iPhone X launch reminded us how it felt to see and want something “new”, before every smartphone essentially became an iPhone. Steve Jobs was a master of taming existing technology and presenting it in a package fit to the masses. Business people already had their pick of smartphones back in 2007, even some tactile options, while the rest of us had our Nokias and Motorolas. It took the genius of Jobs, his designer Jonathan Ive and the rest of their team to make smartphones desirable: “It’s an iPod, but with a phone and a touchscreen.” The rest is history.
The iPhone X presented at the Apple Special Event rekindled that feeling. Once again, we were introduced to something radically different, both wondrously new and comfortably familiar at the same time. An all screen, 5.8-inch smartphone, with nearly no buttons, that fits snugly in your hand. One that unlocks by reading your face instead of your thumb and remains idle until you turn it on by the will of your stare. A near-indestructible, waterproof, wireless-charging piece of technology. A sci-fi object brought to life that can turn you into a Mardi Gras zombie or an animated poo emoji. Because, let’s face it, we’re going to use this peak of human achievement for really stupid shit. I’m not only fine with this, I find it glorious!
All the Rest from the Apple Special Event 2017
This year’s keynote was special for a few more reasons besides the game-changing iPhone X. It celebrated the iPhone’s tenth anniversary. It also marked the debut of the Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park, the company’s new corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California. More importantly, it managed to celebrate Jobs’ legacy of innovation. Not by lagging on with In Memoriam wish-you-were-still-here nostalgia (like Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic), but by delivering the type of engaging product launch at which he excelled. Once more, it lived up to the hype.
During his presentation, Tim Cook honored his former boss for a few minutes. He also took a minute to remind us to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey or Irma, then seamlessly introduced all the eye candy. Cook seemed for the first time to have finally grown comfortable in his role of CEO/heir apparent
Brick-and-Mortar, Alive and Kicking
First was all the good things happening over at Apple’s brick-and-mortar stores worldwide. Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of retail, announced upcoming locations and iconic flagship stores being remodeled. Her big news was a new feature called Today at Apple. This is a daily calendar of activities for customers inside Apple Stores. This calendar includes hands-on workshops to learn all the nifty features of each device.
Today at Apple is relatively new, but the response has been favorable, according to Ahrendts. Many stores already have daily events. You can click here to find out what’s scheduled for today at your favorite Apple Store.
The Wristwatch isn’t Dead, it’s Saving Lives
Apple Watch was next. Tim Cook and his team introduced a new Series 3 of SIM-enabled, swim-proof Apple Watches. These can connect to your preferred mobile service provider without help from your phone. Reality has finally caught up to 1930’s Dick Tracy comic strip technology! In a sense, Apple has freed their Watch from the iPhone. It’s similar to when the iPhone was liberated from the need to sync with iTunes on a computer.
The Apple CEO also touched upon how this wrist computer actually makes the lives of its users better. They help them keep fit and stay active. Now they can even monitor them for possible symptoms of stroke (or butterflies in the stomach). Also, they can now listen to streaming music anywhere with their cellular-data-enabled Watch, AirPods and Apple Music account.
Apple TV: Now in Spectacular 4K
There were even goodies for those of who still enjoy the old-school living room television experience. Apple TV is now available in 4K resolution, featuring a redesigned interface, faster response times and a better experience of using it as a game console. The big news is that iTunes titles in HD are now available in 4K at the same price. Even better, customers with existing HD purchases in their account will have their HD content upgraded to 4K at no extra cost. A sure relief for those with an extensive film collection.
Apple Special Event 2017: Closing Thoughts
In the end, the modern tech consumer is a fickle beast. Apple has learned from its competitors about offering products for every price range. Still, the hard truth is that most of the products the company unveiled today aren’t cheap. Only time will tell if anything unveiled at the 2017 Apple Special Event will change the world. One hopes, at the very least, that these Apple innovations catch on with both new consumers and Apple purists.
I’m pretty sure about one thing, though: the iPhone X launch made me feel young again. This Apple Special Event brought back the naive belief that technology can actually change and unite us all. In this era of worldwide political unrest, that alone was worth my precious time.