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Just A Few Thoughts on Apple’s September Event

By now you’ve all either watched the Apple event this week, or you’ve heard commentary or you’ve read the details of the announcements. I’m not going to cover every detail ad nauseam, but I do have a few observations that I’d like to share.

iPad Nothing

I continue to be really happy that Apple has an entry-level iPad that is really capable. This year they brought a couple of things to this device that makes it even more compelling.

With the announcement of the 5th generation iPad Pro earlier this year, Apple introduced a technology they call Center Stage. I was completely unimpressed when they introduced it, but it’s actually pretty amazing. With Center Stage, Apple uses the wide-angle camera to zoom in on you as the subject of the call.

Because it has zoomed in on the view it’s capturing, it can pan around the view as you move. This is not a mechanical zoom and pan, it’s taking that larger view and cropping to zoom in. If someone joins you in front of the camera, it zooms back out (“uncropping” if you will) to show both of you.

This sounds like a gimmick, but it’s so compelling that I find myself starting and joining FaceTime and Zoom calls from my iPad rather than my phone or my Mac.

For $329 the iPad Nothing continues to be a very compelling product at a great price.

iPad Mini

I have an iPad mini and it has one single job, and that’s to act as a control center for the app Steve and I use to manage the live show. That didn’t keep me from buying a new one when Apple announced it this week.

You know I’m a fan of Apple Pencil, so I was excited to see the mini get Gen 2 Pencil support. With this upgrade, you will always have your Pencil with you because it sticks to it. I know that seems like a small thing but it’s actually a huge thing. If it’s not right there and charged, I simply won’t use it.

This week I’m working on a ScreenCastsOnline tutorial about Joplin and I discovered (on iPad mini) that it supports Apple’s Scribble technology, so I can handwrite with Pencil and have it appear as real text. That’s huge because typing on that tiny little screen is a real chore.

I’m not saying the new iPad mini is going to change my life, but it was available for order on day one so that might have had something to do with buying it! In purple.

Apple Watch Series 7

I was really hoping the rumors were true that the Series 7 Apple Watch would come with squared-off sides, but only because I want it to look new. In fact, I suspect it would be a less comfortable form factor with square edges. It was interesting that Apple specifically said a “softer, more rounded edge”, probably to point out why they went farther away from squared off.

Apple Watch Series 7 will have 20% more screen real estate which should be a pretty noticeable increase. It’s not as big as the leap we got from Series 3 to 4, which was a 35% increase, but I’ll still take as much usable screen area as I can get.

iPhone 13

I know Apple loves to say things like 15.8 trillion operations per second, but I’m not sure that’s why anyone buys a new iPhone. Even 30% faster 4-core GPU doesn’t blow my dress up.

What did absolutely blow my dress up was when they said that they were bringing sensor shift to the camera on all models of iPhone 13. Sensor shift means that the sensor itself will mechanically compensate for your hands shaking when trying to take photos. This technology was only available in the Max version of iPhone last year.

I found a fantastic video breakdown of an iPhone 12 and Max by JerryRigEverything in which he got all the way down to the cameras and explained how they work.

While the iPhone 12 non-Max version does have optical image stabilization, they do it by allowing the entire camera to passively float which does help a lot with shaky hands. With sensor shift though, they’re actively measuring the jiggle and compensating for that jiggle using tiny magnets and coils to move just the sensor to compensate for the motion. I spent a good chunk of my career designing steering mirrors to compensate for motion in just this manner. My steering mirrors were tiny, but nothing like what Apple is doing here. As Jerry describes it in the video breakdown, the magnets are the size of ants!

Jerry explains that optical image stabilization (OIS) at the camera level can compensate for motion at up to 1000 adjustments per second, but by moving the much tinier and lighter sensor alone, it can react at 5000 times per second.

I’m not sure I need 5000 adjustments per second because I’ve got fairly steady hands, but I’ve seen some examples that suggest it really can help.

Sadly sensor shift is only on the wide camera, which is a real shame because the other probably bigger difference with iPhone 13’s camera is that it now has a 3X telephoto instead of 2X. I know people are wild about the ultra-wide lens for landscape photography but I just don’t take that many photos in ultra-wide. I take far more photos in telephoto than wide so I’m super excited about 3X. I’m curious why they put sensor shift in the wide lens instead of the telephoto which is where the effect of shaky hands is only magnified.

Another camera feature that I’m really looking forward to is the new macro capability. If you haven’t played around with macro photography before, the thing you’re looking for is how close you can get to your subject with the camera lens. If you’re trying to get a crisp focus on a murder hornet’s wings, you need to be able to get really close. The iPhone 13 will be able to focus down to 2cm from your subject, which is less than an inch. This is really, really good. This new macro capability in the ultra-wide lens at f/1.8 on a phone’s camera will be amazing. And you can use it in video and slomo videography.

Apple also announced Cinematic Mode for video, which pretty much looks like witchcraft to me. They demonstrated how you could set the focus on one person, but if they look away, the focus changes to the subject of their vision. That’s crazy pants. I doubt I’ll ever use this but it sure does make the iPhone’s camera an even more compelling tool for real videographers.

People have been clamoring for a 120Hz refresh rate, and while that was a huge leap up on my big screen TV, I’m not sure I would notice it on my phone. Apple didn’t ever specifically say 120Hz, rather they showed that the frame rate adapts depending on what you’re doing to save battery, and in the video, you could see it went up to 120Hz at times. Again, I bet I won’t even notice that!

The longer battery life (2.5 hours longer than the full-sized 12) sounds awesome. It does come at a cost though, as the iPhone 13 Pro weighs 6% more than the 12 but that seems a small price to pay. Because it was iPhone and Apple Watch announcement week, both of my devices have started dying around 8pm. I assume they’ll automatically go back to normal now that the announcement has come out.

Bottom Line

None of the devices Apple announced this week are game-changers if you have last year’s models, but they’re all faster, they all have brighter screens, some have more screen real estate, and they continue to outpace their rivals if you look at the specs and believe their claims. That’s good enough for me.

1 thought on “Just A Few Thoughts on Apple’s September Event

  1. Frank Petrie - September 17, 2021

    Here’s a video from Apple regarding the new iPhones. It has an excellent segment on Cinematic Mode (their’s more you can do with it in post, I believe).

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