Apple made a splash with its product announcements at its annual fall media event a few weeks ago. You probably already know the big stuff, so here are some of the smaller details of the new iPhones and Apple Watch that are likely to affect you on a practical basis.
Sure enough, Apple made a splash with its announcements of new iPhones and the releases of iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra at its annual fall media event a few weeks ago. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are available now, while preorders for the iPhone X (“ten”) begin Oct. 27 and likely limited supplies start to arrive Nov. 3.
The company also unveiled the Apple Watch Series 3 and the Apple TV 4K, bringing 4K resolution and HDR color to the TV box.
You probably already know about most of the big features — Face ID unlock and security authentication on the iPhone X, cordless charging on all iPhone models, built-in LTE cellular networking on some Apple Watch Series 3 models — so I’m going to share some of the smaller details that are likely to affect you on a practical basis.
Farewell, iPod nano and iPod shuffle. At the end of July, Apple bid goodbye to an important part of its history by discontinuing the iPod nano and iPod shuffle. It seems like ancient history now, but when the original iPod was introduced in 2001, most everyone thought Apple had finally gone off the deep end. That struggling computer company, making a music player that was more expensive than other players on the market? Insanity.
And yet, the iPod is what propelled Apple to be the behemoth that it is today. The iPod nano itself was amazing, not just for its features, but because it completely replaced the most popular iPod at the time, the iPod mini. The iPod shuffle was an odd expression of Apple minimalism: a music player with barely any interface at all. But it was small, and great for exercise when you didn’t want to carry a larger iPod or, later, an iPhone.
Is Apple just abandoning that part of its market? Nope. The Apple Watch is the new iPod nano and iPod shuffle. Every watch model can store at least a few gigabytes’ worth of music on the device. Connect to it using a set of AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones, and you have an iPod that also tracks your exercise. The Series 3 models with LTE will enable Apple Music subscribers to stream anything to the watch in a software update coming sometime later this year.
iPhone setup. I’ve only just gotten an iPhone 8 Plus for review this week, so I haven’t had a chance to use it much, but I do want to draw attention to the first-run experience, which was excellent.
As with the setup of AirPods and the Apple TV, configuring a new iPhone out of the box is now nearly effortless. If you already own an iPhone, you simply put the two devices near each other and confirm that you want to transfer your data. The new iPhone displays a swirling cloud of dots, similar to the Apple Watch setup, and you point the old iPhone’s camera at it to authenticate the device.
That’s it. If you back up your data to iCloud, it’s pulled down and applied, which includes all of your email accounts, contacts, events and the like. I didn’t even have to re-pair my AirPods; the new iPhone sees them and connects when I select them.
I did run into one temporary snag, though. Apple released iOS 11.0.1 this week to fix a few bugs in the initial release; my iPhone 7 was running that version, but the iPhone 8 Plus was running iOS 11.0. I was also restoring the data from an iTunes backup instead of iCloud, so iTunes balked. Setting up the iPhone 8 Plus as a new iPhone, applying the update, and then going through the setup process again did the trick.
The Files app. Really. iOS 11 introduces a new Files app that lets you organize files.
Stay with me here — I can see you drifting off.
One of the original concepts behind the iPhone, and iPad, was to not have to deal with files again. There was no Finder, no folders, no structural hierarchy of “where” things were located. Instead, you open an application and its documents are just there.
But we operate in a world of files, and pretty soon that concept became a limitation. Often, we want to open a file using an application that didn’t create it, or share it with someone easily, or store documents based on projects, not applications. There have been many awkward workarounds, but now the Files app relieves a lot of that pressure.
Primarily, Files access your iCloud Drive, but it’s open to any application that builds support for it. I use it also with Dropbox, which is where I keep all of my work-related files. On my Mac, I have folders for clients that in turn contain folders for projects. If an app supports the Files architecture, I can get to my Dropbox files without having to separately launch the Dropbox app.
As another example, I’ve started testing an app called Cascable for controlling my Wi-Fi enabled Fujifilm X-T1 camera. One of its features is downloading images directly from the camera, which it stores in its own storage area. Before iOS 11, I’d have to make a point of saving those images to the iPhone’s Camera Roll to make them available to other apps. Now, if I want to email one of those images to someone, I can tap and hold to bring up the options bar, tap Add Attachment, and navigate to the Cascable images.
As more apps integrate support for Files, I look forward to having less friction when dealing with files in general. After all, the iPhone and iPad were designed to reduce friction in the first place.