Apple Watch Ultra 2
Let's start with the good stuff, the Apple Watch Ultra 2. I caught most of the keynote in real time and immediately placed my order for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 when the keynote ended and the online store reopened after the keynote.
Back to the Apple Watch Ultra 2, the rumours were all around small improvements to the SoC (SiP) but the S9 is actually a fairly big upgrade to me. Moving from 5 to 3nm production, 50% more transistors and 30% more performance and now a global double tap feature. Feels like the Apple Watch might be peaking and I'd guess that future improvements will be around more or improved sensors and maybe the form factor. Battery life is the one they need to crack though, imagine only charging once a week, that's the ideal situation to be in.
In all honesty, what I really want in the world is a traditional watch, as you may be able to tell from the growing collection on Good Gear Club, and an activity tracker. As I'm in the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Watch makes lots of sense so here we are.
I didn't comment much on the design of the Apple Watch Ultra last year, it was something I had to see in person. It looked huge in the keynote and it is large, but it was months before I got to see one in the flesh and couldn't try it on. In a way, I'm glad because it gave me literally 12 months to think about it. I was hooked once I saw the international orange Action Button during the keynote, but it's not orange enough in my opinion!
The S9 also brings offline Siri as it's available on the device now. You get 64GB of storage now (my Series 2 has 8GB) and the aforementioned performance bump.
There's also an updated Ultra Wideband chip that improves its accuracy. My iPhone 14 Pro has an Ultra Wideband chip that I've had no use for, so I'm eager to mess around with it, but unless we buy Find My compatible trackers I don't see much use for it right now.
The display is now 50% brighter than any previous Apple Watch, the Series 9 was bumped to match the original Apple Watch Ultra, but the display can also now reduce its brightness down to 1 nit. This will be interesting to see in certain settings but most importantly when we retire to bed. I've had no issues with my current Apple Watch because it doesn't have the always on display.
The new double tap gesture lets you use the watch 'hands free', or more accurately if you other hand is full. No more tapping with your nose which I've had to do often! I can see it being a gesture I use very often, even if my hands are free because it makes a lot of sense to me. Primary action? Double tap and it's selected.
Lastly, while I'd have ordered the watch anyway, the green credentials are all a nice bonus. I always feel that manufacturers should be the ones to deal with the impact of manufacturing and distributing their products and Apple are on track to be taking that responsibility. The Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2, in certain configurations, are now carbon neutral.
I'm a little sad that Apple dropped last year's colours for the Alpine Loop straps. The black with orange accent was my taste wrapped up perfectly as an Apple Watch strap. I went for the black/blue option this year, but will be keen to see how it looks with a Nike Sport Loop instead as there's one that I have my eye on.
iPhone 15 Pro & iPhone 15 Pro Max
The new titanium finish looks lovely, I don't think any match the Apple Watch Ultra exactly, but the overall brushed look is great. I have a case on my phone and while it's easy to take out and wipe down, the stainless steel edges just attract way too many smudges. It's going to be around 10% lighter, but I wouldn't upgrade just for the finish.
USB C is great, but I have some thoughts on how much it gets overblown as such a big issue for iPhone users given how seamless and familiar Lighting is. I am yet to find an adequate USB C charging solution for my bedside whereas I have many options for USB A.
I'm really disappointed for regular iPhone 15 Pro buyers that they don't get the 5x zoom option. The 3x zoom is fine, but the new prism mechanism that gives you 5x zoom would make the phone a game changer for me. I don't want a Max iPhone and I'd have found myself in a tight spot this year deciding on what would work for me.
For the camera options alone, I probably would have begrudgingly gone for the Max, even though I feel it's too big. The way they've implemented though, is pretty good.
The 5× telephoto on iPhone 15 Pro has a little minimap so you don’t get lostView on twitter
Overall though, the camera situation is really interesting around the 1x camera. You get the option for it to behave as a 24mm, 28mm or 35mm lens. I would love this feature on the iPhone 14 Pro. You effectively have 6 prime lenses and a macro lens in your pocket. It's just a crop, so I guess I can treat my photos the same way manually, but I'll forget and never be bothered enough to do that.
The updated Ultra Wideband chip makes an appearance in the iPhone 15 too and as it works from 3x as far, gives you more functionality in the Find My app for locating friends. A younger me would have really appreciated this feature.
The new Action Button for the iPhone is pretty boring for me. Other than launching the camera, which is already quick enough to do and I certainly don't need a third shortcut on the lock screen for it, I don't know what I'd use it for. Maybe if its context aware enough it could double as a shutter button? But the volume buttons already do that. Just doesn't feel necessary to me but I'm keen to see what others make of it and how they leverage that little bit of functionality.
Small improvements across the board, but all pretty good ones. Really excited to jump into the world of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 in the coming days. I'm long overdue an upgrade and while I don't think I can play out my traditional watch + activity tracking approach yet, this should keep me going for years to come.
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