Far Out was a stellar event indeed – for these eight reasons – 9to5Mac

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September 8
Ben Lovejoy
– Sep. 8th 2022 7:38 am PT


Apple might be disappointed that a lot of what it announced yesterday leaked beforehand, but the company still managed to pull enough surprises out of the hat. Tim Cook punned beforehand that Far Out would be a stellar event, and he wasn’t wrong.
From the absolute UI genius of the Dynamic Island to the unexpectedly low price of the Apple Watch Ultra, it was an impressive event from start to finish …

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There was quite a lot 9to5Mac readers knew in advance:
Despite this, the surprises at the Far Out event were impressive ones. Starting with the biggest of these …
Yep, we knew there would be a pill and hole punch cutout, and we knew Apple would use the user-interface to disguise this, and make it appear to be a single pill, with the ability to display content in the middle.
But inventing a completely new UI to turn the necessity of holes in the display into a great new feature was nothing short of genius.
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I definitely didn’t see a switch from a notch to a pill shape cutout as something which could justify an upgrade, but honestly, Apple has changed that. The new UI is so slick that I’d want it even if I weren’t planning to upgrade for the camera improvements.
While we’re now used to some camera features being exclusive to the Pro Max, what I loved this time is how many of the camera improvements come to the base model iPhone 14.
Only the Pro models get the 48MP sensor, but the base model still gets a larger sensor, wider aperture, and auto-focus on a wider-aperture front-facing camera. Photonic Engine also means that many of the image-processing capabilities come to the base model too.
On the video side, the base model gets the same Cinematic mode with 4K HDR at up to 4K, and Action Mode (more on this in a moment).
The larger iPhone 14 Plus model gives you the same size screen as the Pro (albeit without all the same display tech), and a lot of the camera capabilities, for $899. That thing is going to fly off the shelves.
Another big surprise was Action mode.
I’ve commented in the past at how impressed I’ve been with the standard image stabilization of the iPhone 13 Pro, but Action mode looks to take this to a whole new level.
I’m assuming that output is at 1080p only, since it looks like it will need a lot of cropping capability to pick out unchanging frames from such jerky movement, but that’s a price worth paying if it performs anything like as well as it appears to in the demo.
If it does, the iPhone 14 Pro could not only make gimbals a thing of the past, but could negate the need for action cameras – at least, in scenarios where mounting it is not an issue.
We knew this was coming, though there were question marks about the exact functionality. One key innovation is that the mode doesn’t rely on transmitting full text messages. Instead, it asks a series of questions, and then encodes the answers into compressed form.
Since Apple knows what information is collected in what order, it can compress the data to almost nothing. For example, the first question is: Who needs help? The options are Me, Someone Else, and Multiple People. The iPhone could easily just send a 1, 2, or 3, with the server at Apple’s end turning it back into the full wording. If the feature asks five questions, this could easily be encoded into something like: 13225 plus the latitude and longitude. This makes satellite comms a lot more reliable.
The Find My option to tell family and friends where you are was also an unexpected bonus.
Finally, the fact that this feature is free for the first two years. We don’t yet know what it will cost after that, but in circumstances where you need it, cost is likely to be the least of your concerns.
Another unexpected safety feature was Crash Detection, for both Watch and iPhone. This is a feature first seen in some rather high-end cars, often requiring a subscription, so it’s great that this comes to so many people as a standard feature.
Yes, we knew the design features, but the Apple Watch Ultra still managed to make itself a must-have for outdoor enthusiasts and athletes. It’s a very well thought-out feature set, right down to things like turning the display red in the dark to avoid losing night-sight.
The biggest unexpected feature was a full dive computer! I’d expected to see some underwater features, but to have the ability to completely replace a fully-fledged scuba-diving watch is amazing. From monitoring time at depth to calculating and alerting decompression stops means that for many recreational divers, this will be all they need.
Indeed, the inclusion of crowd-sourced data like hyperlocal dive conditions mean that in some cases it may be better than any of the existing dive computers out there.
An example of a small but well-targeted feature is the 86-decibel siren. This could be extremely useful in the case of emergencies like someone slipping while hiking in limited visibility, enabling their companions to quickly locate them. And if someone needs rescue, the lat and long will bring rescuers to the scene, while the siren could quickly get them the last tens of meters to the accident.
The last big surprise at Far Out was the price of the Ultra. Everyone was confidently predicting $999 and up, while the real thing turned out to have just one price, and that price was a remarkably affordable $799.
Of course, that’s still a fair chunk of money, but considering you could pay around the same money for a number of standard Apple Watch Series 8 combos (Stainless Steel with Milanese Loop, for example, is $799 for the 45mm model), it looks like a bargain. Similarly when you compare it to some lower-tech but more expensive Garmin models – though those still offer significantly better battery-life.
Those, then, were the eight things that most impressed me about the Far Out event – what about you? As ever, please let us know in the comments.
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Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!
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