Apple announces its largest new products and features via the famed Apple event, and this latest conference has certainly not disappointed. We have new information on upcoming products like the Apple Watch, a big new deal with HBO, and upcoming features from CarPlay, among other things. Here are the top bits of new from Apple and when you can buy them.
1. Apple Announces Deal with HBO
One of the biggest bits of news Apple had for entertainment fans was a big new deal with HBO, offering HBO’s first standalone streaming service called HBO Now. This is important news for cable cutters and streaming fans: People have been wanting access to HBO that didn’t require a cable subscription for years, but HBO continued to see the profit in partnering exclusively with cable companies.
This changed in 2014, when HBO announced that in addition to its HBO Go app, it would be offering HBO Now, all of its shows and movie options available for a fee, separate from a cable subscription. Details were scant and HBO kept quiet about Now for months, but this appears to be the reason – they were working on a deal with Apple.
Now we know that HBO Now will be offered exclusively through Apple devices starting in April, and will cost $14.99 per month to use. Availability on other platforms will come eventually, but for now Apple is the only brand in town offering this service, and right in time for the premieres of big shows like Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley.
2. Bring On the Apple Watch
Apple is finally ready to release all the official details on its Apple Watch (you can call it an iWatch, but they prefer not too). The watch is big on notifications or “Glances,” letting people know about calendar events, social media, even news feed updates. You can also take calls directly from the smart watch, send messages with it, and use Apple Pay. It has sensors compatible with workout apps, so wearing it while exercising will help inform the new Activity app so you can manage your daily activities. The watch connects to nearby iPhones via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The watch will also be able to run a number of third-party apps when it first comes out. Apple demonstrated a Weather Channel app live during their event, which provides users with real-time weather updates. There’s also a messaging app called WeChat which can be used to quickly send messages and images on the watch, like texting on the phone but more minimalistic.
There are three different categories of Apple Watch that will become available on April 24, the Apple Watch Sport, the Apple Watch, and the Apple Watch Edition. The Sport cuts the price down to around $350 with a lighter, exercise-friendly designed, while the mainstream version starts at $549 and looks more like a traditional watch. The Edition offers elite gold accessories for up to $10,000 or more. The average battery life expected for any model is 18 hours, after which it will need a recharge.
If you’re a little overwhelmed by the smart watch choices on the market and want to check out the watch up close before making any decisions, you’re in luck. Apple is starting a new program that will allow customers to try on the Apple Watch in stores and experiment with them for a while to see how they like it.
3. CarPlay is Getting a Lot Bigger
Apple has already been working on CarPlay with a few select automakers, creating a dashboard that can use its more popular apps with sync automatically with an iPhone. But the company has big plans for CarPlay, thanks to its steady stream of new contractors with other manufacturers. Now in 2015 there will be 40 new car models equipped with CarPlay, and you can expect even more to follow next year. Watch for when Apple announces more compatible models from Toyota and others.
If you’ve never heard of CarPlay before, head on over to the Apple CarPlay page and take a look at the different features it can offer. The ideal CarPlay dashboard includes a big touchscreen with familiar Apple apps for navigation, taking calls, playing music receiving messages, and more. However, it’s a little difficult to say exactly what CarPlay looks like, because each automaker is tailoring the software to work with their own best ideas for hardware. Dials, voice control, and touchscreens are just some of the options currently available.
4. ResearchKit Moves Forward with Health Management
ResearchKit is Apple’s open source app developing platform that is targeted primarily toward the healthcare industry. While ResearchKit has not been fully launched yet, Apple already has a suite of apps ready to launch in the coming months. This includes apps to track asthma and asthma triggers, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease symptoms, heart health and more, tapping into the sensors that Apple phones already have to provide more information.
Each of these medical apps has been developed by an esteemed medical research organization or institute, but this is only the beginning for ResearchKit. The feature will become open to far more developers within the next month, allowing companies and organizations around the world to work or adapt their own apps. Apple is essentially creating a big sandbox for developers to play in, and it’s likely that some innovations will prove especially useful, even beyond healthcare.
5. New 12-inch MacBook Gets Even Thinner
Shipping on April 10th, Apple will be offering a new version of its 12-inch MacBook, going even lighter and thinner than previous models. The keyboard has received a significant update with totally new key and click designs that make for a quieter experience. The new laptop includes a 1.1GHz Core M processor on the standard model, which many have noted is less powerful than older models. Apple seems to be marketing this Macbook as an alternative to Chromebooks, a tabletish laptop for quick work on the go and around the office. There’s also 256GB of SSD memory and 8GB of RAM. Battery life has been updated to nine hours.
Unfortunately, the price has also gotten a big update, with this 2015 MacBook available for $1,299.
6. USB Type-C
The USB port/cable configuration is getting a big upgrade in 2015 with a new protocol called USB Type-C. This type of connector is smaller than previous versions and can be used for all sorts of data storage connection. Apple is pretty excited about Type-C, which is why they are replacing most of the ports on the MacBook Air with one Type-C connector. No longer will the MacBook Air have an SD card reader, two older RSB ports, and a Thunderbolt port. This, of course, allows Apple to make the Air even smaller. However, you’ll need an adapter of some sort to play nice with older, incompatible USB connections.
Photo Credit: Marlus Brede