Live from the Steve Jobs Theater: The view from the cheap seats

If you’re following Apple’s livestream, this is my live commentary.

Wrap up: That was as jam-packed Apple event as I have ever seen, and they skipped right over the new operating system. That said, things went pretty much as predicted by the rumor sites, despite my skepticism (what, no fingerprint sensor?).

The headline is the new iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) starting at $999 (going to what? left unsaid), available for pre-order Oct. 27, shipping Nov. 3, if you’re lucky. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will be the cheaper models. The new Watch with LTE cellular and Dick Tracy wrist calling could be huge. The 4K Apple TV is an incremental improvement. Augmented reality is a work in progress.

Apple’s share price, predictably if irrationally, fell a couple points during the presentation. Buy the rumor, sell the news. Works nearly every time.


Below: My commentary, all times Pacific. Pardon the typos.

10:00 a.m. The event opens with Steve Jobs voice. Here’s what he said:

There’s lots of ways to be as a person, and some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there. But somehow, in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation. So, we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple, is if we keep us, us.

Jobs’ remarks were a smart opening. The words were carefully chosen, the sentiment cast Apple in a post-Jobsian glow. Tim Cook, who took the stage next, is always a bit of a let-down. Who wouldn’t be?

10:06 Before products, Cook makes some remarks about the hurricane victims and urges people to give to the Hand in Hand benefit for hurricane relief. More moral leadership from CEO who has positioned himself on issues ranging from DACA to global warming as the anti-Trump.

10:07 A few words about the new headquarters. Cook says they’re going to start moving in later this year! That’s news. A significant delay. Last we heard they were moving in April 1, 2017.

10:10 Retail SVP Angela Ahrendts makes her first appearance on stage and gets a big applause. “Cervix experience.” heh. The new retail stores look good to me. The usual formula: Signature architecture in prime urban retail centers.

10:17 New products: beginning with Apple Watch. No unit sales numbers still, but 50% growth year over year and it now outsells Rolex as best-selling watch in the world.

10:22 Jeff Williams, who apparently needs no last-name introduction, runs rapidly through the new features. Heavy emphasis on health and fitness. FDA and Stanford working with Apple on the Apple Heart Study. Sounds like serious science. Fun new characters from Toy Story and more. Available Sept. 19. Cool underwater video to intro Apple Watch Series 3. Cellular built in gets big applause. Voice? Yes! Can receive call with just your watch using your iPhone number. Maps, WeChat, Stream 40 million songs. Talking Siri. How? New processor. New modem. New altimeter. The display is the antenna, electronic SIM. Same size case. The apple employees clap. But wait! It turns out it’s thicker by two sheets of paper. Call with daughter on board is fun. “Darn close to magic,” says Williams. Almost made me forget that the watch got thicker. “Gorgeous grey finish.” “Swim poop” heh

New price points: starting at $399 with cellular, $329 without, $249 series 2. Available Sept. 22. Anybody want to buy my month-old Apple Watch Series 2?

10:37 Back to Tim. Excellent ad. “This is a big moment for Apple Watch.”

10:39 Apple TV gets zero applause. Second Emmy for Siri gets scattered claps.

10:41 Apple TV 4K. “Cinematic quality to everything you watch.”

10:41 Eddy Cue, who also needs no last-name introduction. High Dynamic Range. Better rather than more pixels, he says, with demo from Spiderman. My eyes aren’t good enough to be impressed by the demo. Same price as HD, which is already too high for my budget. Later this year, Amazon Prime, he says. This is not the first time that’s been promised. Live sports coming, also live news. Time and score in the corner. Time posted would be a big improvement on YouTube. No mention of that. Demo: New game from thatgamecompany. I missed the price points. Ships Sept. 22.

10:53 Cook is back. Next up: iPhone. “So magical that the hardware practically disappears” “For the first time you were touching software rather than buttons.” “Innovation after innovation after innovation.” “We have huge iPhone news for you today.” Cue the video. iPhone 8.

10:56 Phil to the stage to talk about the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. (Later for the iPhone X?). Glass on front and back, curved aluminum edge. True Tone (which responds to ambient light) is a first. Louder speakers. New chip: A11 bionic. “Most powerful and smartest chip ever designed.” (Note the AI hint.) Phil geeks out. Only one camera on the iPhone 8. To get two (and the boca and the new portrait lighting feature) you need the humongous iPhone 8 Plus. Darn. Changing lighting on face afterwards is pretty cool.

11:06 Augmented reality. Do you need iPhone Plus to shoot AR? Demo of AR Apps coming. 1) Game in basket ball court. 2) See real time players and stats in baseball game. 3) impose sky map on sky around you 4) Directive games: one of the first multiplayer game online or in the same room. (we watch shoot it out with first rows of the audience in the background)

11:12 Wireless charging on a Bekins white plate or airport, car or coffee shop. Q1 open wireless standard. List of restaurants and cars and companies that support Q1 standard..

Price points: 64 and 256 $699 ad $799 preorder Friday, available 9/22.

11:16 Cook is back. We have one more thing. “The future of the smartphone.” Only fitting that we are here, in this place, to introduce a product that will se the course for the next decade.” Cue the video. iPhone X, with notch, as predicted. This is iPhone “ten”

11:18 Phil back up. It is all screen. “Incredible to hold.” Super Retina display. Wake up raise to wake. or tap on screen. No home button gave Apple, he says, an “opportunity to rethink.” Swipe up from bottom for home screen. Not quite as intuitive as Schiller claims. Press side button for Siri. Unlock? Face ID. “The future.” TrueDepth camera system. 30,000 invisible IR dots. Push through multiple neural networks.Built first ever neural engine just (?) to process face recognition. “Super easy and fun to use.” Adapts to you as you change over time. Grow a beard. Change hair. Tested against hollywood masks. Face data protected by secure enclave.

If Touch ID is gold standard. 1 in 50,000 change of faking. Now 1 in a million. (Big applause.) Do all 3rd party apps work, or just the ones he listed?

11:30 Emojis. Animoji. Animated emojis. Emojis you control with your face. A dozen emojis.

11:31 Craig Federighi to stage to demo. “Really something epic.” Face ID fails for him first try! Heh. He’s asked to enter his six number code. Second time worked: Raise it. Look at it. Swipe from bottom (If you don’t look, doesn’t work.) To use Apple pay, you apparently have click twice on the side button. In the old system you just had to wave the phone near the fingerprint reader.

11:38 Schiller back to talk about the cameras in iPhone “ten” What are “deeper pixels”? He ooh and ahs over some sample photos. Audience sits on hands. Portrait mode for selfies too. Audience liked that. Hits on highlights of A11 Bionic chip again.

Battery life: Lasts two more hours than iPhone 7. Yes! Sneak Peek of multiple charging solution. But not clear if you need new Watch and new Airpod to get the feature. “We call it AirPower.”

11:44 So that is iPhone X. Cue the video. Jony Ive narrates. We haven’t seen or heard much of him lately.

Price point? $999. Order Oct 27. Ship Nov. 3. Delay meeting demand?  Could be months, if the reports we hear are true.

11:50 Cook returns. Cue the new ad: Colored sand? Doesn’t tell prospective customers much.

Circled back to the original Jobs quote about the best way to show appreciation: “Make something wonderful and put out there.” I think Steve would have been really proud.

Off to the demo area mosh pit.

That’s a wrap. For more video, see Live from Steve Jobs’ spaceship (video)


  1. Richard Wanderman said:
    I think the presentation went well.

    The new Apple Watch is terrific, to me, it was the most impressive piece of the presentation and I loved when Jeff went off script, that was very moving. I’ll probably buy a series 3 Watch.

    The new Apple TV is also great and the fact that Apple is upgrading already bought movies to 4K for free is fantastic. I don’t own a 4K TV but no doubt will at some point and I might go for the new Apple TV although given the way I watch, it’s not a necessity at the moment.

    The new iPhones are all great and while I can afford and was planning to buy the X, I’m not so sure at this point. The 8 is a very nice phone and will be a great update for my 6s and my guess is that the new features of the X will trickle down to whatever replaces the 8 or 9. All of the new iPhones are impressive and I can’t wait to try a X (an X) in the stores.

    I was very impressed with the video I saw of Apple Park as well, it’s going to be a huge success for Apple.

    September 12, 2017
    • Fred Stein said:
      Nice post. Agree Watch series 3 is terrific.

      September 12, 2017
  2. David Drinkwater said:
    I think the iPhone 8 was made for China, and I think the iPhone X will do quite well also.

    Like Richard, I think I want the new Watch. I’m being poked and prodded for heart questions, so if the new Watch can help me, I’d be a fool not to own one.

    I was surprised to watch the market react to the new iPhone X. It may be later than some would like, but Apple will sell as many as they can make and as fast as they can make them

    In my opinion, the market is massively underestimating what the iPhone X will do..

    September 12, 2017
    • Richard Wanderman said:
      I agree, the heart piece of the Watch presentation got me and that, along with LTE will be the reason I finally get an Apple Watch.

      I agree, if AAPL drops a bit more, might be a good time to pick a bit more up.

      September 12, 2017
  3. Fred Stein said:

    Apple Park: Like nothing else. No other ‘Industrial “park” or tower comes close.

    Stores: 500 Million annual visitors annually get a human touch – person to person from the most advanced technology company. 65,000 retail employees create an expanding pool of Apple experts who will take that skill to places we can only speculate.

    Watch: What they did on the inside (silicon, integration,, etc) goes beyond any wearable competitor. I don’t think anyone will catch up.

    A11: Adding the AI or Neural Cores puts Apple ahead. Arguably, the disaggregated Android ecosystem will never catch up.

    AR: We’re just beginning. For the first few years Apps were mainly frivolous. Today Apps a huge market in themselves but far more importantly Apps are the front-end for giants like WeChat, Facebook, Lyft/Uber/Didi, Mobile Payments, to name a tiny fraction. Even if AR is initially primarily for amusement and games, it makes iPhones the coveted devices for young buyers, setting preferences for years.

    Tim’s claim of inaugurating a new decade was no idle boast.

    I loved the opening Beatle’s song.

    September 12, 2017
    • David Drinkwater said:
      On Apple Park and Apple Stores, I think there may be a pretty close match in the Sony Center in Berlin. The Sony Store part of the experience is almost secondary (and I am a Sony user), but the actual building is quite phenomenal. It’s not *as* open (or tree-filled) as Apple Park, but for something right in the middle of a city, it’s very impressive.

      September 13, 2017

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