Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore... Just a 15 minutes' drive from San Jose, Apple Park — the new Apple HQ in California envisioned by Steve Jobs as a workplace within a landscape — is a ring-shaped 2.8 million square foot building clad entirely in the world's largest panels of curved glass and, aptly, has been nicknamed the 'spaceship'. (Sidenote: Have you seen The Circle starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson? The film about a not-so-distant future where social media and technology has overtaken the world and transparency is the name of the game? Well, it is eerily similar.) And it is at Apple Park — powered by 100 percent renewable energy with 17 megawatts of rooftop solar (one of the world's largest on-site solar installations) — that we find ourselves for the annual Apple Keynote conference.
I have to admit, I've drank the Kool-Aid. I have an iPhone 7 Plus, try to close my activity rings on my Apple Watch, commute with my AirPods, and type this very story with my MacBook Air. Cut me and I'll bleed iTunes. So naturally, I'm head-over-heels for the swanky new Apple Park with its natural ventilation system, base isolator technology (that allows the 'spaceship' to move up to four and half feet horizontally during an earthquake), and visitor centre selling lit Apple merch (must buy: that black T-shirt with a rainbow Apple logo). But even if you're not an Apple lover, it's a mean feat to walk into the Steve Jobs Theatre — a 1,000-seat auditorium with a 20-foot-tall glass cylinder entrance — and not be blown away. Here, situated at one of the highest points within Apple Park (boasting panoramic views of the meadows and the main ring-building), chief executive Tim Cook has just unveiled the latest products from the tech giant that are guaranteed to make your life, yet again, even more "magical".
Introducing: Apple iPhone X with Face ID and Animojis, iPhone 8 with wireless charging and Portrait Lighting, Apple Watch Series 3 with built-in cellular, and Apple TV with 4K and HDR.
IPHONE 8 WITH WIRELESS CHARGING
Key new features: The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are both constructed from glass (front and back) with an aerospace-grade aluminium frame; all sealed for dust and water resistancy at a microscopic level. Available in silver, space grey and an all-new gold, it boasts a 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch Retina HD® display with True Tone® technology that adjusts the white balance of the display to match the surrounding light for a more natural viewing experience. Redesigned stereo speakers are 25 percent louder and deliver deeper bass. Powering the iPhone 8 is a new A11 Bionic chip which features features a six-core CPU design with two performance cores that are 25 percent faster; four efficiency cores that are 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip; and there's also an Apple-designed GPU with a three-core design that delivers up to 30 percent faster graphics performance than the previous generation. In short, it's faster, sharper and sexier than the iPhone 7.
Buro Loves: The new 12-megapixel cameras designed for an augmented reality experience (super impressive with the new AR games hitting the market) and, for all you Instagrammers, the Portrait mode with Portrait Lighting on iPhone 8 Plus — that is, you can now replicate dramatic studio lighting effects for your Portrait pictures on your iPhone. Score. But that's not all folks! The new glass back allows for wireless charging. Yes, wireless. No more messy cables from the charger to your iPhone 8; just place your iPhone 8 on the charging pad and, presto, you're set to go.
Inside word: Apple will also release 'AirPower' in 2018 — an oblong-shaped mat that can wirelessly charge multiple devices at the same time. Think: iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods. What does this mean? No need to bring multiple chargers for all your Apple devices when travelling; just one charging mat for them all. Finally!
Pricing and availability: The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will be available in space grey, silver and an all-new gold finish in increased 64GB and 256GB capacity models starting at S$1,148. Customers will be able to order iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus beginning Friday 15 September, with availability beginning Friday 22 September 2017.
IPHONE X WITH FACE ID AND ANIMOJIS
Comparison to the iPhone 8: Apple has skipped number nine to deliver "the future of the smartphone" in iPhone X. Besides boasting the same A11 Bionic chip and wireless charging features offered by the iPhone 8, the iPhone X comes with a 5.8-inch Super Retina display that covers the entire screen; includes OLED technology to produce true blacks, million-to-one contrast ratio, and stunning vivid colours; and offers the new Portrait mode with Portrait Lighting function on both the rear and front cameras. You guessed it: Better #selfies with depth-of-field effect. The iPhone X also has a redesigned dual 12-megapixel rear camera system, but unlike the iPhone 8, is fitted out with dual optical image stabilisation. Similar to the iPhone 8, the front and back is constructed from glass (the most durable glass ever in a smartphone), but instead of an aluminium frame, the iPhone X is wrapped in a surgical-grade stainless steel band and is available in space grey and silver.
Revolutionary new feature: The real pièce de résistance of iPhone X is the introduction of Face ID® enabled by the new TrueDepth camera system — comprised of a dot projector, infrared camera, and flood illuminator — all powered by the A11 Bionic chip to accurately map and recognise a face. Instead of Touch ID®, with Face ID® on the iPhone X, you just have to look at your iPhone to unlock it (or to activate Apple Pay®). With Face ID® projecting more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots onto your face, which are then pushed through neural networks to create a mathematical model of your visage, it is more secure than Touch ID® (only 1 in 1 million chance of an accidental unlock with Face ID® compared to 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID®), works even when you're wearing accessories like hats and glasses, and best yet, it can't be fooled by photos or masks of your face.
Buro Loves: Animojis. Say what? The new TrueDepth camera system analyses over 50 muscle movements on your face to bring emojis to life in iMessages; hence, 'Animojis'. Choose from a dozen different Animojis such as a panda, unicorn, fox, or my personal favourite, the swirl of poo — yup, you can now be digitally sh*t faced — to record and send Animojis messages that mimick your facial expressions. Absolutely. Brilliant.
Pricing and availability: The iPhone X will be available in silver and space grey in 64GB and 256GB models starting at S$1,648. Customers will be able to order iPhone X beginning Friday 27 October, with availability beginning Friday 3 November 2017.
APPLE WATCH SERIES 3 WITH BUILT-IN CELLULAR
Key new features: Guess what? Apple Watch is now the number one watch in the world ahead of Rolex. The new WatchOS® 4 includes an updated Heart Rate app that provides more insight into resting and recovery heart rates; plus, as a preventive health measure, users can choose to receive a notification when their heart rate is elevated above a certain threshold while they're inactive. But the real game-changer is that the new Apple Watch Series 3 now comes with built-in cellular: You can now text, or make and receive calls, all through your Apple Watch without the use of your iPhone. Heck yes! Water resistant to 50 metres, Apple Watch Series 3 also features a barometric altimeter to measure relative elevation (great for skiers and hikers) and is available in two models — one with GPS and cellular, and one with just GPS — but both featuring a 70 percent faster dual-core processor and new wireless chip.
Buro Loves: Combine the Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) with your AirPods® and WatchOS® 4, and you can stream up to 40 million songs on your wrist through Apple Music® without the need for an iPhone. Runners, rejoice!
Pricing and availability: Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) will be available in gold, silver or space grey aluminium; alternatively, it is available in silver or space black stainless steel paired with a variety of bands. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) will be available in gold, silver or space grey aluminium cases with a Sport Band starting at S$498. Customers will be able to order Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS) beginning Friday 15 September, with availability beginning Friday 22 September 2017. Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) will only be available in Singapore in 2018.
APPLE TV WITH 4K AND HDR
Key new features: Apple TV® with 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR) lets you bring the immersive cinematic experience into your own home. Powered by the A10X Fusion chip (the same chip that powers the iPad Pro®) the built-in 4K video scaler ensures that the highest possible resolution is always pushed out; allowing you to get the most out of your TV — whether it's an older HDTV or the latest 4K Dolby Vision OLED. You can enjoy Apple TV 4K with the growing selection of 4K HDR movies on iTunes® and, as a reward to existing iTunes® users, all HD titles in your iTunes library will be automatically upgraded to 4K HDR versions when they become available.
Buro Loves: That Apple TV 4K will also offer 4K HDR content from video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Can't wait to watch season two of The Crown in all its regal glory — crisp, rich, and unbelievably sharp.
Pricing and availability: Apple TV 4K starts at S$268 for 32GB or S$298 for 64GB. Customers will be able to order Apple TV 4K beginning Friday 15 September, with availability beginning Friday 22 September 2017.
The Apple flagship store is located at 270 Orchard Road, Singapore (7 days a week, 10am to 10pm, tel: 1800 699 2824).