You call that boring? Apple’s iPhone 7 event delivers big surprises | Cult of Mac

Tim Cook iPhone 7 event

Far from the “boring” launch predicted by haters and relentless Apple rumormongers, Wednesday’s iPhone 7 event delivered plenty of big surprises.

Along with our first legitimate looks at the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and the new Apple Watch Series 2, we got a promising peek inside Apple’s increasingly powerful and polished ecosystem. Here’s what you need to know about Apple’s iPhone 7 event.

iphone 7 plus camera

iPhone 7 is a beautiful monster

We’ll be getting not one but two new black iPhones, including a Jet Black model that looks like it would perfectly match Darth Vader’s headgear (who cares if it might launch “Scuffgate“?). And while those and the silver, gold and rose gold iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus might look similar to last year’s models, the similarities stop there.

A newly customizable Home button gains loads of additional functionality. Rough-housers will appreciate new water- and dust-resistant features, while shutterbugs will love the powerful new camera (especially the dueling 12MP lenses on the iPhone 7 Plus).

The Retina HD display is 25 percent sharper, while the new stereo speakers crank up two times louder with increased dynamic range. iPhone 7 models will come with EarPods as well as an audio-to-Lightning dongle (hey, it’s ugly but it’s free) to make up for the missing headphone jack.

But the really big improvement is the new Apple-designed A10 Fusion chip, which Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, called a “rocket ship.” Look for gigantic performance improvements (it’s 40 percent faster than the A9 inside the iPhone 6s) as well as better battery life.

Preorders start at 12:01 a.m. Pacific this Friday, Sept. 9, with iPhone 7 starting at $649 and iPhone 7 Plus starting at $769. Shipping starts ship Sept. 16.

Apple Watch Nike+

Apple Watch goes deep and wide

Updates and expansions to Apple’s wearable computer line go far beyond the slimmer/better device (and the watchOS 3 improvements) the world expected. The “completely reengineered” Apple Watch Series 2 comes with a second-gen Apple-designed SiP that packs a “crazy amount of performance,” according to Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer.

The new display is twice as bright. Built-in GPS offers new potential to apps for running and hiking. And the whole thing is built into a “swim-proof” case that’s water-resistant to 50 meters, with speakers that eject water after a dunking.

A partnership with Nike is yielding a running-centric Apple Watch Nike+, while an $1,149 Hermès model will fill the fashion niche. And there’s even a ceramic Edition model that will start at $1,249.

As with iPhone 7, preorders for new Apple Watch models start at 12:01 a.m. Pacific this Friday, Sept. 9. Apple Watch Series 1 models, largely similar to the original Apple wearable but with a new dual-core processor, start at $269. The further upgraded Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369.

Super Mario Run

Apple does care about games

Mario is coming to the iPhone for the first time, thanks to a surprise partnership with Nintendo. The new game, called Super Mario Run, sparked immediate enthusiasm among casual gamers everywhere.

Apple also sewed up another big deal, this time with Niantic Labs. That’s right, Pokémon Go is coming to Apple Watch (even if the formerly white-hot game is already fading a bit from the public eye).

airpods

Apple’s future is wireless

Calling its controversial move to kill the headphone jack “courageous,” Schiller sang the praises of Apple’s new AirPods, which will ship in late October for $159. “Our team at Apple has worked so hard to create something new that delivers on the opportunity of how good a wireless experience can be,” he said.

Schiller promised to deliver us from the “joys” of Bluetooth with the AirPods, which he called a “technical tour de force” based on Apple’s new W1 chip. The tiny earbuds deliver five hours of listening, connect seamlessly to Apple devices, and switch automatically between them depending on what you’re listening to. They also come in a wireless charging case that gives you 24 hours of listening, all in a form factor smaller than the EarPods cases we’re all so used to seeing.

New Beats headphones will also use the W1 chip.

Real-time collaboration iWork

The leaks never stop, but they are never enough

We probably knew more about the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch than ever before about an upcoming Apple product. And the leaks didn’t stop: Amazon and even Apple itself leaked info confirming the new phone’s name just before and during Wednesday’s iPhone 7 event.

We were expecting the inevitable performance boosts — and the death of the headphone jack, and even a glossy black iPhone with a better camera — but the number of truly surprising revelations seemed shocking. Perhaps even more so to a bunch of Apple rumor hounds like us here at Cult of Mac.

A ceramic Apple Watch? Super Mario Run on iOS and Pokémon Go on Apple Watch? Real-time collaboration in iWork? A gigantic post-show price cut on iPad Pro? It’s good to know Apple can still surprise us (in a good way).

Cook Corden Pharell

Apple is at the top of its game

The iPhone 7 keynote came at a critical juncture for Apple. iPhone sales continue to slide. Apple is embroiled in a fierce and expensive European tax battle. And a series of modest, slow-building successes like the Apple Watch and Apple Music haven’t done much to quell the post-Steve Jobs chatter about an innovation drought in Cupertino.

But Wednesday’s exceptionally strong presentation of the latest, greatest Apple hardware and software should give pause to Cupertino skeptics.

Throughout the iPhone 7 event, Cook and the other Apple execs looked relaxed, focused and poised to usher us into the shiny future we’ve all been anticipating. Just for a moment, the Irish tax nightmare, Touch IC Disease and other Apple problems disappeared in a wave of cheery execs, bubbly celebrities, slick and compelling videos, and the lineup of sleek new products.

“We’re just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we’ve been working toward for many years,” said the disembodied voice of Apple design chief Jony Ive during one of his probably patented industrial design porn videos.

While Schiller called Apple “courageous,” there’s another word that springs to mind: confident.

For Apple, the future looks more than just wireless. It looks simple, and elegant, and packed with the kind of legitimate innovation — sometimes incremental, sometimes mind-blowing — that can make our lives better almost without us even noticing.

It’s truly a good time to be swimming in the Apple ecosystem (especially once you get that new waterproof Apple Watch). And just wait until tomorrow …

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Barbra Streisand calls Tim Cook to fix her biggest gripe with Siri

Barbra Streisand

Getting iPhone bugs fixed is apparently super-easy if you’re a world-famous diva.

Barbra Streisand says she recently had a huge bone to pick with Apple over the way Siri pronounces her last name. So the singer did what only Barbra Streisand could do: She dialed Tim Cook’s personal phone number.

“She pronounces my name wrong. ‘Streisand’ with a soft ‘s’ like sand on the beach — I’ve been saying this for my whole career,” Streisand told NPR in a new interview.

“And so what did I do? I called the head of Apple, Tim Cook, and he delightfully agreed to have Siri change the pronunciation of my name finally, with the next update on September 30th. So let’s see if that happens, because I will be thrilled.”

Of course, Streisand could have just taught Siri how to pronounce her tricky last name on her own, but that’s not how divas roll.

General Electric nearly bought Apple in 1996

Getting a new iPhone is awesome, especially if you set it up correctly.

Apple Inc. and General Electric are two of the most iconic American companies of the last century, but back in 1996 they almost become one company as GE CEO Jack Welch considered buying the computer maker.

It would have only cost GE $2 billion and the current Apple CEO, Michael Spindler, was begging Welch to pull the trigger on the deal in order to save the struggling company.

Bob Wright, the long-serving head of NBC­Universal which was owned by GE, revealed that Jack Welch passed on the opportunity because GE couldn’t manage it.

“The stock price was $20, and [Spindler] was explaining he couldn’t get the company moving fast enough and the analysts were on his case,” Wright told the New York Post. “He was sweating like mad and everybody said, ‘We can’t manage technology like that.’ We had a chance to buy it for $2 billion.”

How GE would’ve incorporated Apple into its business can only be guessed at, but it would have seemed like an odd fit for the young tech darling to get taken over by the old industrial corporation. The Apple brand may have been killed along with most of the products, while GE took advantage of Apple’s patents and tech know-how.

Instead, the deal fell through. Steve Jobs came back and created the iMac, iPhone, and iPad, turning Apple into the most profitable company in the world. Today Apple is worth about $607 billion while GE is worth less than half that at $296 billion

Short and sweet: All the new magical stuff from Apple’s big event.

Apple and Cook have plenty to cheer about.

From the iPhone to the iPad to the Apple TV, Cupertino’s constellation of magical devices just got a little more magical.

Did you expect all that Apple goodness? Most of what we heard today already churned through the rumor mill: the plus-size iPad Pro; new Apple Watch finishes and bands; a refreshed Apple TV with games, apps and Siri functionality. And, oh yeah, the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus with a whole new level of Force Touch, called 3D Touch.

There were even a few surprises, like the iPad Pro’s new Smart Keyboard and the iPad stylus, dubbed the Apple Pencil. But throughout today’s keynote by Tim Cook and his lieutenants, the series of under-the-hood upgrades they revealed promise to push all Apple products forward into the future.

Let’s take a moment to boil down all two hours and 10 minutes of this incredibly dense and surprisingly succinct Apple event.

Apple Watch gets more fashionable

More colors, more bands.

The Apple Watch got more watch bands, including some great leather ones from third-party makers. In addition, two new aluminum Sport models will be available in rose gold and regular gold colors. With the extra finishes, and a selection of bands that are both bolder and more subtle, you’ll be able to really customize the look of your Apple Watch.The new watchOS 2 allows an unprecedented amount of direct control via apps, like the demoed Facebook Messenger, iTranslate (real-time language translation right on the Apple Watch), a GoPro watch app that functions as a viewfinder, and a new medical app that shows live heart-rate stats for everyone, including pregnant mothers and their babies.

iPad goes pro

Amazing price point for such a massive upgrade.

The iPad Pro was as sexy as anticipated, with a 12.9-inch screen so large that you can set the screen of an iPad Air 2 in portrait across the left-hand side of an iPad Pro in landscape. There are 2,732 by 2,048 pixels for a total of 5.6 million, delivering more pixels than even a 15-inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display. There’s an A9X chip inside, which is 1.8 times faster than the previous chip in the iPad Air 2.“This is desktop-class performance,” said Phil Schiller.

iPad accessories: Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard

Not sure of that name, but I'm sure we'll all get used to it.

There’s a new stylus in town and it’s called the Apple Pencil. Priced at $99, it uses Force data to become the best drawing tool you’ve ever used with an iPad. Apple Pencil might be a goofy name, even a bit pretentious, but it looks amazing: It’s powered by its own built-in Lightning port, just under where the eraser would be on a regular pencil.

A new Smart Keyboard for the iPad Pro will be powered by a little Smart Port (meaning you can say goodbye to Bluetooth pairing woes). It will cost $169.

Apple TV disrupts the living room

Want. Now.

The new Apple TV, available in October of this year, will cost you $149 for a version with 32GB of flash storage or $199 for a 64G version. It will have its own App Store and a new touch- and voice-enabled remote with an accelerometer and gyroscope, which make Wii-style games a reality on Apple’s set-top box. Looking for a gaming console for your kids? Why not get a $150 one that does what Nintendo’s does?Universal search ensures you’ll never have to jump into Netflix, Hulu, HBO or Showtime to find what you want to see again: Siri will look across multiple services and apps to get you to what you want. The future of TV is in those very apps, and we saw some amazing demos of the actual user interface itself (love those shaky new icons). Games like Crossy Road and Beat Sports, a new MLB experience, and a discount shopping app from Gilt mean new experiences on your big screen. Based on iOS, tvOS will power all these new apps, and it’s available for developers now.

iPhone 6s and 6s Plus: better, faster

Pretty in pink. I mean Rose Gold.

We knew iPhone upgrades would be announced at this event, but we were taken a bit aback by the possibilities when Phil Schiller showed off the new touch system, 3D Touch, which will add another bit of pressure sensitivity. Now you can tap, press lightly or press hard to get different effects. On the Home screen, you’ll get new contextual menus, like “take a selfie” on the Camera app icon.There’s a new A9 chip on the iPhone 6s handsets, with a built-in, always-on M9 chip. With the new phones, you’ll be able to say, “Hey Siri,” whenever you want — whether the phone is plugged in or not. She’s always available, and, as Schiller said, “Siri’s definitely sassy.”

Apple’s taking another path with purchasing these new devices, too, offering its own pricing plan that competes with the carrier’s own. For $32 a month, jsut a bit more than, say, AT&T’s own plan, you get the iPhone 6s, an annual upgrade, and Apple Care+, something you won’t find at your carrier.

Apple wanted to use BMW i3 as basis for electric car project.

Tim Cook wanted to use the BMW i3's body for Apple Car.

Apple’s been stealing top talent from automakers over the past few months to help it work on the company’s electric car project, but according to a new rumor, Apple wanted to steal the entire body of another luxury automaker’s car to get its project on the road.

Apple was interested in using BMW’s i3 carbon fiber body as the basis for its own electric vehicle, reports Manager Magazin. CEO Tim Cook supposedly met with senior managers from the i3 production team in Leipzig during a fall visit to BMW to discuss the possibility, however, negotiations to use the BMW i3 body have broken off.

While the BMW i3 hasn’t been as revolutionary as Tesla’s electric cars, the German-made car’s carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body shell has made it the most energy efficient vehicle sold in the U.S. BMW is already selling a higher percentage of plug-in vehicles in the U.S. than any other car maker though, so it’s not hard to see the appeal it’s had for Apple.

It’s unclear whether negotiations between Apple and BMW are still ongoing. The German magazine reports that negotiations were broken off last fall, but the two sides agreed to keep talking and to check in with each other’s views from time to time.

Apple’s electric car project supposedly got the greenlight from Tim Cook last year and the company already has hundreds of employees working on the project.

Tim Cook Auctions Apple HQ Lunch Meeting, VIP Passes to Apple Keynote for Charity.

For the third year in a row, Apple CEO Tim Cook is participating in a charity auction through CharityBuzz, offering whoever bids the most the chance to enjoy lunch with him at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino. This year’s auction also includes two VIP passes to an Apple keynote event to watch Apple unveil new products.

Two people can have lunch with Cook, and the experience will last for approximately one hour. Lunch is included in the auction price, but the winning bidder will need to cover travel and accommodations. The exact date of the lunch will be scheduled at a mutually agreed upon time after the auction ends on May 6, 2015.

The auction has an estimated value of $100,000, and bids are currently up to $37,500. This is the third year that Tim Cook has auctioned off an opportunity to spend time with him, offering a coffee meeting in 2013 that sold for $610,000 and a lunch meeting in 2014 that sold for $330,001.

timcookcharitylunchauction

Proceeds from the auction will once again benefit the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, a charity that aims to achieve a “just and peaceful world by partnering with human rights leaders, teaching social justice and advancing corporate responsibility.”

Tim Cook says Apple Watch will be available outside U.S. in April.

tim-cook-apple-watch

Speaking at the Berlin flagship Apple Store last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told employees that the Apple Watch will not be exclusive to the United States in April, according to employees in attendance. Specifically, Cook said that the Apple Watch will launch in Germany during the month of April. It’s possible that the Apple Watch will launch first in the United States in early April, with Germany and other countries following later in the month, but it definitely appears that the Watch’s rollout will be more aggressive than the first iPhone and iPad launches…

The iPhone was notably exclusive to the United States and AT&T for the first several months of the product’s life, while the iPad launched exclusively in the U.S. in April 2010 and was followed by launches in Europe and Australia over a month later, in mid-May of that year. Besides Germany, sources indicate that an April launch in Australia is also likely as Apple has already been training select Apple Retail employees on Apple Watch sales procedures by way of secret briefings in Sydney. The United Kingdom and France have both seen Apple Watch marketing pushes, so those countries are likely also in the April mix.

The usual first wave countries for major Apple product launches also includes Canada, where Apple is soon planning to launch the Watch-compatible Apple Pay system, but we haven’t yet confirmed if those countries will be home to the new product in April. Apple has been heavily promoting the Apple Watch in China, so perhaps the wearable will launch to the Chinese market in or around April as well. However, launches in China could be delayed due to government regulatory factors. During his trip to Germany, Cook also stopped by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office to discuss consumer privacy and the offices of BILD to discuss Apple rumors, Steve Jobs, and the NSA.

Asked if employees will get free Apple Watches (like when full time employees got original iPhones from Steve Jobs in 2007), Cook reportedly said “you’ve given me something to think about, I agree with your point, I think it’s great, and I think everyone should use our products. It’s a good point for me to think about, I’ve got some more plane rides to think about it on.” Cook also discussed the expansion of Apple Pay into Europe, reportedly saying:

Apple Pay will be global, it’s not a U.S. program. We want it everywhere. We are working to bring it out of the US. It is going to take a little bit of time to do so. We want to be in Germany. We want to be in Europe generally this year. I don’t know if we will make it, I think we will. It’s our intention to get here as fast as we can.