I've not known as much hype or build up to an Apple event for some years. Apple are known for their secrecy around product launches but leaks usually happen. Whilst there were rather large leaks about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus there was nothing around the new Apple Watch. To keep the whole thing under wraps Apple built its own conference centre just for the event, a massive white box with no hint of what was inside.
So was all the hype worth it? Will Apple succeed in making smart watches commonplace rather than a niche luxury typically bought by IT geeks?
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Apple technology, I use an iPhone 5S, iPad Mini and a Macbook Pro for my day to day work. I'm not an Apple 'fanboy' but I do admire how Apple takes something as complex as a smartphone and make it accessible and appealing to everyone from the savviest of technology-lovers to the technophobe. I do admire Google's Android system as well and the new interface is a massive leap forward, but for me iOS is still the best mobile platform.
At Apple events they typically start off by saying what a wonderful year they've had and fire off a load of stats about how great they are, but this year was different. This year they went straight to the products which was a refreshing change. First up was the iPhone 6. A few years ago the iPhone was upgraded to a 4" screen, and this made a massive difference (as well as making the original iPhone look tiny). Well, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus make the iPhone 5S look like a match box. The iPhone6 is now 4.7" and the 6 Plus a massive 5.5". Apple are far from the first to launch large smartphones, but time will tell whether the 6 Plus is truly a usable device on-the-go. It does boast an impressive battery life nearly double that of the current iPhone 5S.
What else is new with the iPhone?
As in previous years there is a slightly new design, it's thinner (an impresive reduction from 7.6mm on the 5S, to 6.9mm on the iPhone 6, and 7.1mm on the 6 Plus), improved camera, support for high speed wifi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4 and an improved Touch sensor.
The biggest change this year though is the inclusion of NFC (Near Field Communication). NFC is used in most European credit cards and allows transactions to happen by simply swiping the card over a reader, without chip and pin. Well, Apple have teamed up with a number of banks and high street retailers to provide the ability to pay using your phone. The payments are charged to your credit or debit card as usual but you dont need the physical card anymore.
The big question that this raises is around security, and what happens if someone steals your phone. As you might imagine, Apple have thought about this, and to verify a transaction you have to use the fingerprint reader on your phone to confirm the payment. If someone does steal your phone then you can log on to Find My iPhone and remove that function from the phone. There are some major retailers already involved with this including McDonalds, Toys R Us, Disney and Staples.
So that's the iPhone 6. Would I get one? Probably! And I would probably choose the iPhone 6 Plus for its excellent battery life.
One more thing...
So what's left then? Apple's Tim Cook followed in his predecessor's footsteps with their famous "just one more thing" moment: the Apple Watch.
Again, Apple aren't the first to do this but I do feel that they will be the ones to make smart watches commonplace. The Apple Watch is a stunning piece of design and Sir Jony Ive and his team have done yet another great job. It's clear that they have considered everything a watch can do and how people will want to use it, including how to change straps, which is a simple slide in and out exercise held in place by magnets. They haven't simply made iOS smaller and put it on a watch, they've redesigned iOS for the watch, with a stunning and thought-through apps screen.
Unlike other smart watches, namely the Android Wear models, they aren't fully reliant on a touch screen, and there is a wheel at the side that allows navigation and a home button to quickly access your contacts and communicate with them. Obviously there is also a touch screen and it's a pretty good one, with Apple's now standard Retina display and the ability to work out how hard you are pressing on the screen, and adjust it's action as a result. This means that you can tap lightly to press a button or open an app, or press a little harder to open sub-menus and other areas. As with other smart watches the Apple Watch has maps and navigation, integrating with your iPhone. The watch doesn't have Wi-Fi, 3G or GPS but it can link to your iPhone to access those.
One particularly nice feature is in navigation: your phone will send pulses to your watch to indicate when to turn left or right so that you don't need to look at your phone. It can also measure your heart rate using the sensors on the back of the watch.
Charging a watch has always been a weird concept to me, but it's clear that this has been given plenty of thought too. Rather than connecting a USB cable into a socket, you simply connect the inductive charger to the back using magnets. It is to all intents and purposes wireless charging.
So will Apple sell lots of the Apple Watch? Without a doubt. Apple's brand is too big for it not to sell millions. It's not available until early next year but I will be purchasing one. For me it beats the Pebble smart watch due to its colour screen, and beats Android Wear (which I think is a great system) due to the interface. There's no killer app on the Apple Watch just yet, but expect third-party developers to take hold of it and really make something special.
Just one last thing. Apple has proven to us just how fast technology moves. The iPhone is seven years old, which is still very young even in technology, but the new iPhone is 84x more powerful than the original iPhone. That is incredible speed of development. We've gone from not having smart phones in 2007 to having phones that are more powerful that some people's main desktop PCs. It's exciting to think what will happen in the next seven years.
You may have noticed the lack of iPad announcements, but this isn't unusual. There are typically two Apple events around this time, so expect another in October where the iPad Air 2 will be launched along with OS X Yosemite.All images courtesy of Apple.