Apple debuts iPhone 14, Watch 8, other sparkly things

With Crash Detection (no, not that kind) and satellite-powered SOS when cell service is absent

Apple on Wednesday enticed favored members of the media and its ever-enthusiastic employees from Cupertino to hear word of the company's iPhone 14, Apple Watch 8, and second generation AirPods Pro earbuds.

The product premiere, dubbed "Far Out," occurred at its Apple Park 'spaceship' HQ, just two days after the company's deadline for COVID-shy staff to spend at least three days per week working from the company's costly corporate real estate.

Apple CEO Tim Cook opened the show with a video presentation of Apple Watch customers reading letters they'd sent to him recounting how their lives had been saved or otherwise made better by Apple's wrist hardware.

Cook celebrated the arrival of Apple Watch with the expected superlatives: "This year, we're introducing our best Apple Watch lineup ever, by far." That lineup includes Apple Watch 8, SE, and Ultra.

Apple Watch 8, running watchOS 9, features a new temperature sensor that's been deployed to expand upon menstrual cycle tracking with ovulation tracking. Mention was made about how Apple protects private data, but perhaps not enough given the concerns that have been raised about period tracking applications in the post Roe-era.

The wrist gadget also incorporates two new motion sensors, a three-axis gyroscope and a refined accelerometer to allow more accurate vehicular Crash Detection – the device dials emergency services if you can't but the false positives could be interesting. And it has a new Low Power Mode – so new it has to be capitalized – to squeeze 36 hours of use out of the 18 hours expected during unthrottled operation.

Apple Watch 8 starts at $399 or $499 with cellular connectivity. The budget oriented Apple Watch SE starts at $249 or $299 with cellular. And there's not much more to say about it. Both should be available on September 16.

Going hardcore

For those who want to pay more, Cook's elves have crafted Apple Watch Ultra, a $799 ruggedized sport timepiece aimed at serious athletes, explorers, scuba divers, and those concerned about being stranded in Antarctica – Apple's promotional video included a recitation of explorer Ernest Shackleton's famous and probably apocryphal Help Wanted ad promising a hazardous journey, small wages, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, and a not much chance of a safe return.

Encased in a 49mm titanium case, the Ultra model boasts 60 hours of usage – on Low Power Mode – and dual-frequency GPS, for more accurate location readings. It meets the EN 13319 standard for diving instruments and the US military's MIL-STD-810H environmental engineering specification. Apple Watch Ultra should be available on September 23 for those that want to show off.

Apple's AirPods Pro earbuds been improved enough to now be called "AirPods Pro (2nd generation)." Available on September 23 for $249, the white (at least initially) earpieces feature upgunned Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode, better battery life, refined Touch control for media playback, and a new charging case.

And then there's the Jesus phone

Apple iPhone 14 has a 6.1" screen and last year's A15 processor. It includes a 12-megapixel Main camera with 1.9 micron pixels, an ƒ1.5 aperture and sensor-shift optical image stabilization, in addition to an Ultra Wide camera. Its front-facing lens is an ƒ1.9 aperture TrueDepth camera, with 12 megapixels and, for the first time, autofocus.

The ibiz has packed image processing improvements into its "Photonic Engine," which supposedly delivers better low-light performance: up to 2x on the Ultra Wide camera, 2x on the TrueDepth camera, and up to 2.5x on the Main camera. There's also a video stabilization system called Action mode that provides a gimbal-guided look.

The iPhone 14 Plus has a 6.7" screen. In the US, Apple's latest iPhones do away with the physical SIM tray and use eSIM technology instead. Both phones include the Crash Detection capability – for force of up to 256 Gs – found in the latest Apple Watch lineup.

These iPhones also incorporate a new Emergency SOS feature to call for help where there's no cell service, using satellites. Apple has enabled iPhone 14 antennas to connect to orbiting sats, assisted by software to help users aim their handsets at the void. This capability, said to take less than 15 seconds to send a message to a contact center to call for emergency help for the stricken user, launches in November in the US and Canada. It's said it will be free for the first two years.

Apple iPhone 14 starts at $799 and iPhone 14 Plus starts at $899, with availability planned for September 16 and October 7, respectively. They're expected to ship with iOS 16.

Apple says "iPhone 14 Plus boasts the best battery life ever in an iPhone," but goes out of its way to avoid quantifying that claim, having perhaps been sued too many times. The small print reads, "All battery claims depend on the cellular network, location, signal strength, feature configuration, usage, and many other factors; actual results will vary." If you're not seeing the best battery life ever on your iPhone 14 Plus, maybe you're using it wrong.

Go Pro

Then there's the iPhone 14 Pro line, armed with a new Super Retina XDR display that sports an Always-On display, powered by Apple's latest A16 chip. "The best iPhones we've ever created," Cook humbly put it.

Instead of a fixed black notch at the top of the screen, these shiny slabs feature a Dynamic Island – a resizable area that changes shape for different applications, made possible by a smaller front-facing camera.

These Pro phones feature a 48MP Main camera with a quad-pixel sensor – these generally get combined into a single 2.44 µm pixel for better low-light rendering during 12MP image creation. There's also a new 12MP Ultra Wide camera with 1.4 µm pixels, a 3x optical zoom Telephoto camera, the same new front TrueDepth autofocusing camera found on the non-Pro iPhone 14s, and other features like Action mode, Cinematic mode (4K at 30 fps and 4K at 24 fps), and ProRes3 support.

Apple iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999 and the Pro Max starts at $1099. Their screens are 6.1" and 6.7" respectively and are powered by a new chip, the A16. Like the lesser 14 line, the iPhone Pro models support 5G networking.

Pre-orders for this swanky stuff begin on Friday, September 9. ®

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