Say what you will about the thrill of the the hunt. Apple leakers have taken almost all of the fun out of the company’s events. It’s gotten to the point that anything we don’t know about ahead of time sticks out like a sore thumb. Add to this the difficulties of shipping new features posed by COVID in 2020 and you have today’s slick and polished, but fairly mundane and predictable Apple iPhone event.
All that said, there were a few new and interesting details that emerged from today’s streamed announcement.
Just take the picture (or video)
The new iPhones were almost completely spoiled over the last few months, but there were a couple of camera features that stood out to me today. First off, its great to see Apple adding HDR video recording and editing to the new iPhone 12 Pros. In fact, the iPhone 12 Pro is now the first and only smartphone to allow the capture, watching, editing and sharing of Dolby Vision HDR video. Apple’s iPhone has been in the lead in smartphone video recording for several years and this should help to keep them there.
Another interesting camera feature is the new Apple ProRAW photo format.
RAW has existed in smartphones for a few years now, but using it has always meant bypassing the benefits of Apple’s computational photography and image processing in favor or getting and working with the unadulterated image. This is an issue considering how much smartphone photos benefit from the processing that Apple, Google, Samsung and others build into their camera systems.
With ProRAW, Apple is attempting to offer more advanced photographers using an iPhone 12 Pro a happy medium. According to today’s presentation, ProRAW will deliver the complete product of the CPU, GPU, Digital Signal Processor and Neural Engine into a single file that retains all of the information, rather than going through compression and automatic post-processing. ProRAW, which will be available later this year, will allow us to perform more complex edits without losing the detail of the image or the benefits of features like Deep Fusion.
Apple has included ProRAW editing capability in the Photos app, and the format will also be editable in professional desktop photo editing software. Even more important, Apple is making an API available so that third party camera apps can also take advantage of the new format.
Stuck on you
We already knew that the MagSafe branding was being resurrected and would be coming to the iPhone. We also knew that a less ambitious wireless charger than the abandoned AirPower based on MagSafe was also like to be shown today. However, the reality of the tech looked more interesting than the leaks to me.
First of all, this charging tech should prove to be more practical than traditional wireless charging. The secure magnetic connection allows for stable device positioning that standard Qi chargers can’t match. This will make wireless car chargers for the iPhone smaller and easier to use. Also, the MagSafe magnet doesn’t get in the way, so this isn’t a proprietary charging format like the Apple watch has. The iPhone will still be compatible with traditional Qi chargers, as well as MagSafe.
What wasn’t widely known before today’s event is that Apple is using MagSafe for more than just wireless charging.
All new Apple cases for the iPhone 12 will use MagSafe magnets for attachment. Apple also has a MagSafe leather card sleeve that can be attached to either the back of the iPhone, or the back of any compatible case. And a MagSafe charger will charge through any of them. I’m usually not a huge fans of Apple’s cases, but I thought this all looked interesting.
The more intriguing detail is that Apple is opening up the MagSafe standard for use by third party accessory makers under MFi. They even showed off a couple of Belkin designs that are already in the works. Apple’s cases and chargers are all fine and good, but what I’m really looking forward to is what other companies can do with MagSafe. This was a smart move on Apple’s part.
Big things in small packages
The HomePod Mini was also covered in detail well in advance of today’s event. However, I believe the reality of the tightly integrated package that was presented comes off better than the leaks let on. The $99 price tag that was reported a few days ago definitely piqued my interest, but the Mini’s video segment today sealed it.
First of all, the HomePod Mini still looks like a solid speaker. I’m sure it won’t have the oomph of the original HomePod, but frankly, most smaller rooms don’t need it. My HomePod works great in my living room and kitchen, but it was a bit much in my bedroom. The volume wasn’t too loud during the day, but it was too much for falling asleep to music at night, at least for my wife. Even at the lowest volume it was too much for her.
Conversely, the Mini looks to be perfect for providing quality sound in a smaller space. This version should allow me to play music geared toward falling asleep quiet enough to not disturb my wife. That will equal less wear and tear on my AirPods Pro batteries, as well. I was also very happy to see that stereo pairing also works with the Mini, as I think this will become my new stereo speakers for my Apple TV in the bedroom.
All of the design and sound features aside, I was really impressed with Apple’s new Intercom feature. It’s a small thing, but it’s exactly the kind of integrated experience that they excel at. Like iMessage and FaceTime, if Intercom works as well as it looks, the it should spur additional adoption of the HomePod by Apple users.It should help to get more people interested in using Apple for home automation, rather than Amazon or Google. It will take a long time, but I think Apple has finally gotten serious about the home.
I know the entire world seems bent on breaking up big tech companies into tiny pieces right now. However, features like iMessage, FaceTime and now Intercom are worth considering as governments and courts debate how far to go to protect market and preserve competition. These are exactly the kinds of features that only work seamlessly in a vertically integrated ecosystem of products. I should know- I sell such products in a commercial and industrial setting every day.
There are real advantages to private marketplaces and integrated ecosystems that some users, myself included, prefer. Regulators would do well to note that there are some tangible benefits to using a tightly integrated system and preserve them while they seek to preserve competition.
Those were the things that stood out to me today. When you already know most of the speeds and feeds of what’s coming, it’s the little things and the smaller details that catch my attention. What caught yours? Let me know in the Comments section below or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.