A week and a half ago Apple held its fall new product extravaganza.
But what does the company’s revised lineup of phones, tablets, apps and operating system mean for travelers?
Here’s my quick take on what’s totally new and what’s been updated, based on what I’ve read the tech pundits saying, since I’ve as yet not got my own hands on any of this “new and improved, greatest thing since sliced bread” high technology.
New Mobile Operating System
Even though major changes in the iPhone seem to happen on an every-other-year cycle, each fall Apple mobile device users get a brand-new version of iOS, the operating system for those gadgets, new and old.
And this year is no exception, although none of the newfangled features are likely to prompt most users to gleefully rub their hands together, or drool over their phones and tablets.
In fact, iPad owners (like myself) will be disappointed to learn that the niftiest addition to iOS, split-screen viewing, won’t work on all past models.
One of the best recaps of iOS 9 was written by Yahoo Tech guru, David Pogue, who covers up 57 features you know about, about three times as many as I could count using all of my fingers and toes.
Quartz has a less complete, but more quickly digestible list of 5 changes to the mobile operating system.
Should you rush to download and install it on your phone or tablet?
I usually recommend waiting 2-4 weeks after the release of major iOS updates before updating your phone or tablet because: 1) there are usually bugs in the new operating system that need to be “exterminated” and, 2) because so many users are trying to download the update that Apple’s servers can be overloaded causing downloads to stall.
And this year some users reportedly got error messages when they attempt to get and install “9.” And others, especially those with older models of iPhone and iPads, reported that their devices were crashing after updating to iOS 9.
Add that to the fact that nothing new strikes me as being better, just different, and that means that you will encounter two learning curves: 1) A downward curve, as you try to rid your brain of what you’ve learned to do in the past, and 2) and upward curve as you figure out how to carry out the same functions as before, but with different strokes for all of we folks.
My iPhone 5 is working just fine, thank you very much, without jumping into the iOS 9 fray, so I’ll be letting others do the post-release “beta” testing while I sit on the sidelines waiting for iOS 9.1, 9.2, or 9.3 to come along.
As in keeping with recent practice, Apple’s latest iPhone model keep the same number, but add an “S” to the end.
So last year, we had the “6″ and “6 Plus.” This year we have the “6S” and “6S Plus.”
But what’s different this “S” cycle is that the weight of each is slightly greater (no big deal) and the dimensions slightly larger.
The larger size could matter if you replace your “6″ or “6 Plus” with a new phone. Some phone cases will work with both last year’s and this year’s models, but others (such as the Mophie battery cases) that must fit precisely around the phones, may not until and unless the manufacturers come up with ones that match the dimensions of the “S” model iPhones.
Likewise, if you want to use an external camera lens, such as ones made by Olloclip that slip over a “naked” (not inside of a case) iPhone, you’ll won’t be able to use those made for last year’s “6″ models.
Both “6S” models have front and rear facing cameras with more megapixels for shooting still photos.
But are you going to take better photos than with prior iPhone models? “Yes,” and “No,” according to photographer Chris Montcalmo.
If you are heavily into video production, you may be ecstatic about the “S’ models’ ability to record in 4K (Ultra HD, “I-can-see-every-zit-on-his-face!”) resolution.
But before you run out and buy a “S” in your quest to produce a major motion picture ala Tangerine, consider these facts:
- Even if you buy the latest “Apple TV” box, you won’t be able to stream 4K video to your TV from your iPhone.
- While you could connect your iPhone directly to a 4K television set to show your 4K films, you probably will save a lot of money buy deferring your purchase of such a TV for at least a few more months.
- Don’t expect to see much in the way of 4K content from cable or broadcast TV anytime soon.
- 4K video files are very large, and even though you might be able to record a few hours of 4K on your “6S” phone, how much you can store will depend on how many apps, photos, and other types of files you’ve got on the phone.
- You may not be able to edit 4K video on either your iPhone, iPad, or Mac desktop, using Apple’s iMovie program. You may have to shell out a few hundred bucks and spend hours learning how to use Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, or some other professional-level video editing program.
- Depending on the “horsepower” or your computer, editing 4K video may not be feasible, even if the video editing software can handle the files.
- Transferring 4K video to your computer for editing, or uploading it from either your mobile device or computer to a platform like YouTube, may be quite slow, depending on the upload speed of your Internet connection.
The Apple Watch, released a year ago, features “Force Touch” which means that the device responds differently depending on how hard you press down on it. (It also was a new feature added to the MacBook Pro laptops.)
On the new iPhone 6S models, its now called “3D Touch” and this article from TechCrunch explains how it works.
The following video from Apple demonstrates it in action.
Getting the New Phones
Apple began taking pre-orders for new phones on September 12th and will begin shipping them (and selling them in its retail stores) beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 25th.
Although the “S” models aren’t radically different from the “6″ phones, Apple seems to be selling them at an even faster pace that the models released a year ago.
And depending on whether supply is outstripped by demand, you may have to wait a bit longer than you’d like to receive your phone after you place your order, especially if you are purchasing a 6S Plus.
Also, remember that the reviews of the new iPhones by most technology writers are probably based on fairly limited opportunities to use and test them out. More detailed reviews could come out within a month or so.
My thought is that the best time to buy one of the new phones could be from around October 25th (a month after they will be in retails stores or shipping to those who have pre-ordered them) and the third week in November, just before Thanksgiving, and when purchasing iPhones as holiday gifts will likely begin an upswing.
If you’re really in no hurry at at all, consider waiting until after January 1st when cases, lenses, and accessories designed specifically to fit the “6S” models are more likely to become available.
Apple now offers two new versions of its iPad tablet.
The iPad mini 4 is a lighter, thinner, and perhaps better version of the smallest tablet the company makes. It’s a tad smaller and weights less than the iPad Air models. It won’t fit in your pocket like an iPhone, but it could slip more easily into and out of your carry-on bag and fit better on an airliner tray table than the full-size iPads.
Speaking of size, the roughly 9″ x 6″ iPad Air and iPad Air 2 are now the mid-sized Apple tablets. In November, you’ll be able to buy a “giant” (12″ x almost “9″) iPad Pro from the Cupertino tech giant.
Here’s what it looks like in operation.
Some travelers, especially business travelers, will be asking themselves whether the newest Apple tablet will meet their on-the-road computing needs as well as a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Microsoft Surface tablet.
There’s no updated version of last year’s newest product, the Apple Watch, and the release of new software for it has been delayed while bugs are being “squashed.”
Apple’s streaming video box, the Apple TV, has been completely redesigned and will come out sometime in October. You can still buy the “old” version of the device for $69.
This MacRumors story tells you everything you need to know about it, especially the fact that the related TV services won’t be available until sometime next year.
And this story compares the earlier and new versions of AppleTV.
What’s missing? Despite the fact that 4K televisions are now being sold in stores and the iPhone 6S models can record 4K video, Apple TV can’t be used to stream 4K to your television set.
Amazon’s newest Fire TV box supports 4K, and a new version of the popular Roku streaming TV device that also streams 4K may come out by year’s end.
But since most of these streaming TV devices aren’t designed to be truly portable, most travelers are unlikely to tote one along with them on a trip.
The Bottom Line
Should you update your Apple mobile device’s operating system to iOS 9? Probably, eventually. According to Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue, “[i]t runs on the iPhone 4s, iPad 2, iPad mini, or iPod touch fifth generation—and, of course, all models since.” My guess is the the new iOS will work best on more recent phones and tablets.
What about buying a new iPhone? My wife and I have been purchasing every third phone released.
I started with an iPhone 3GS, skipped the “4″ and “4s,” and bought a “5.” I kept it, bypassing the “5S” and last year’s “6,” but now its time for me to think about getting a “6S” (I’d love the “Plus” model, but it ain’t gonna fit in my front pants pocket where my “5″ now “lives”).
My wife had an iPhone 4S (which I now use as a second video camera) which she replaced with a “6 Plus” last fall.
So think about following our example to save money, unless you’re an “I gotta have the latest thing” tech gadget buyer.
Want a new iPhone every year? Well, Apple is now happy to make your wish come true.
But is that the best deal? What is the best deal on a new iPhone?
And Brian X. Chen of The New York Times has some tips for finding the best cellular phone plan.
What about that iPad Pro? Is “Bigger Better”? Maybe for you, maybe not. If you travel a lot, and don’t need all of the power and functionality of a laptop, but more than can be delivered by the “regular” iPad or iPad mini, take a close look at it when it arrives on the scene in November.
Apple Watch? That’s so “last year” (at least in terms of new products). I don’t own one myself. Here’s what I said about the Apple “wrist bling” when it was released a year ago.
If you’re a stay-at-home-couch-potato, are into TV binge watching or online video games, then maybe you should buy an Apple TV. But are you going to cart it with you when traveling? Probably not.
Lack imagination when it comes to holiday gift giving? Trying to decide what to ask Santa to bring you this year? Apple will be pleased to serve as your “personal shopper.” Trust me on that.
(Dick Jordan uses an iMac desktop computer, an iPhone 5 and his wife’s discarded 4S, and an iPad 4th generation tablet.)