Apple’s annual iPhone event for 2019 is in the books.
Apple’s “By Innovation Only” event gave us three brand-new iPhone models – the 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max – a new Apple Watch, a new iPad, and release dates for a handful of Apple services that were announced earlier this year.
But that’s about it.
There were no major surprises on Tuesday – no “One More Thing” – and some of Apple’s greatest innovations teased in news reports ahead of the event just weren’t ready.
Here’s why Apple’s iPhone 11 event should have been called “By Iteration Only” instead of “By Innovation Only.”
First, let’s talk hardware. All of the major products are new and exciting, but they’re not reinventing the wheel necessarily.
Foto: sourceAssociated Press
The new iPad? Its most “innovative” new feature is a slightly bigger screen, and its low $329 price tag.
Foto: sourceStephen Lam/Reuters
The most “innovative” aspect of the new Apple Watch Series 5 is its always-on display, a feature people have been begging for since the days of Pebble watches. Other than that, the Apple Watch Series 5 is a minor update from last year’s redesigned Series 4.
Foto: sourceStephen Lam/Reuters
The iPhone 11 has some gorgeous new colors, and a cool new ultrawide camera, but otherwise it will look and feel almost identical to anyone who tried last year’s iPhone XR.
The iPhone 11 Pro, similarly, has an excellent new camera system that should help it catch up with superior Android shooters, but the phone itself is not all that different from last year’s iPhone XS.
The most innovative features in these new phones? Slow-motion selfies, and the ability to hold the shutter button in the Camera app to take a video — things that apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat already do.
The most innovative tech Apple talked about on stage was a new feature for the iPhone 11 Pro called “Deep Fusion,” where the phone’s neural engine selects the best pixels in each shot to optimize your photo for details and low noise — but that feature won’t be ready until “later this year.”
One feature Apple didn’t talk about on stage was the new U1 chip in the new iPhone 11 Pro, which lets you precisely locate other Apple devices with the U1 chip. For now, it will help with sharing files, but it’s not the Tile-like service people were expecting for finding random objects around your home. (That service may be announced soon, though.)
To me, it felt like the most innovative announcement of the day wasn’t hardware, but pricing for Apple’s new services. Apple Arcade and TV Plus, its subscriptions for original games and TV shows, will be $5 per month for the whole family — and free for a year if you buy a new Apple product. Now that’s innovation!
Overall, though, it felt like there was not much actual innovation on display — but a whole lot of iteration. The iPad got a bigger screen, the Apple Watch got a minor update, and the iPhone 11 feels like the third consecutive year of the iPhone X design.
Yes, you’re in for a treat if you’re upgrading from much older devices — like anything made prior to 2017. But if you’ve bought anything from Apple over the past couple of years, then these new products will probably feel familiar.
Apple is rumored to be working on some futuristic new products, like a redesigned 5G-enabled iPhone and a pair of augmented-reality (AR) glasses. Apple also usually holds one final event of the year, typically around October. Here’s hoping we get more innovation, and less iteration, at the next big event.