CUPERTINO (California), Sept 8 — A new Apple Watch? Better AirPods Pro? These had been leaked prior to Apple’s recent product launch event though fortunately the rumours were more whisper than full stories as there’s a lot to be excited for.
Here’s my impressions from my too-short time with the new units with the help from the infinitely patient and cheerful product demonstrators.
1. Apple Watch Ultra is overkill for most but Garmin should be worried
The first thing you’ll notice is how much bigger the screen is but it’s still light and thin, which already gives the Ultra a big advantage over competing “pro” watches.
You can even use straps from the current line of Apple Watches and not be limited to the rugged straps that were designed specifically for the Ultra.
This versatility is something that other brands can’t compete with as you can just change your strap and the Ultra is wearable to your office job, dinner or just casually lounging at home.
Garmin’s professional dive and adventure watches are respected for a reason — they’re built to endure the length of dives or long runs but you really wouldn’t want to wear them to, say, lunch.
With 36 hours of battery life and an upcoming tweak that will help increase that to up to 60 hours, the Ultra offers endurance, functionality and a very everyday-friendly design.
The large speaker for a siren on the side of the Ultra is pretty noticeable and works! It was quite loud, discernible even in the rather crowded demonstration hall.
I like the larger control button that is a warm gold-orange shade that you can definitely see in the dark and speaking of dark, the special Night Mode is nice to look at up close. It’s a brilliant contrast of a dark screen and almost eerie red lettering that looks fairly functional and is also a nice complement to the Wayfinder watch face unique to the Ultra.
On the surface though, endurance athletes and divers will find a lot to like in this more rugged, longer lasting battery version of the Apple Watch and might just be the upgrade they need to move over to Apple from their more “pro” devices.
2. New Series Watch 8 are familiar friends
Design-wise the Apple Watch Series 8 doesn’t feel much different from last year’s. But you do have new sensors that will allow for crash detection as well as wrist temperature. It’s an incremental upgrade but meaningful enough to spark more “Stories from Apple Watch” users’ sessions.
With an improved 18-hour battery life you can likely go a whole ordinary day without needing to charge it and it can stretch to 36 hours but only with the help of the new low power mode.
As impressions go I don’t think that physically the watches don’t feel different from past watches and if you still have last year’s model, unless you think you need crash detection and wrist temperature measurements, you could choose to wait for next year.
However, if you need a more budget-friendly version, Apple updating the Apple Watch SE to include features such as crash detection means you get a lot more for a lot less.
3. AirPods Pro 2: Feel the difference
I had gotten enquiries about these before flying and I can safely say these are a big enough upgrade to pay RM1,099 for the new AirPods Pro instead of RM829 for the previous series.
They have done enough tweaks — better placement of the speaker grille, new touch controls on the stems, an XS size for eartips and improved noise cancelling as well as Transparency mode.
One feature that particularly intrigues me is using an iPhone camera to determine the best audio “fit” for improved spatial audio by using the Apple TrueDepth camera that will tweak it according to your physical makeup — meaning your ears and head.
The Transparency mode will even be useful in allowing you to still hear the environment around you while not being disturbed by louder environmental noise and the new H2 chip doesn’t just improve the sound but is also more power efficient to allow for up to six hours continuous listening, which you can stretch out with the charging case.
If you’ve held off from buying the older AirPods in hopes the second version would be better, you made a good decision.
There are no expected dates for the new Apple Watches or the AirPods Pro 2 but from past patterns, the latest Watch models will likely arrive in October and the AirPods Pro 2 around or before Christmas, which make them an ideal gift to ask from Santa.
The Apple Watch Ultra is RM3,799 while the Apple Watch Series 8 starts from RM1,899 while the Apple Watch SE starts from RM1,119. Expect the new models and reviews to be happening soon.