Key design innovations in the new Apple Watch, iPhone, and MacBook Pro
Apple’s latest round of innovations delivers a wealth of fingertip functionality – here’s what to expect from the Apple Watch 7, iPhone 13 Pro, and MacBook Pro
When do you know if a design has had its Goldilocks moment? Or to put it another way, when is enough, enough? These are questions raised by take seven of Apple Watch. Just launched, Apple Watch 7 adds 20 per cent more screen real estate with just 1mm increase in physical size.
It’s an impressive innovation and the display now curves around the watch body, making it, face on, pretty much all screen.
Apple Watch 7
What was already comprehensively the best smartwatch on the market is still that, just more comprehensively. Of course, the bigger screen – and that is the headline innovation of Apple Watch 7 – wasn’t enough to satisfy Apple watchers demanding radical design over-hauls. But the more counterintuitive criticism might be that the new watch is now actually too much screen. It might be just a matter of adjustment – and there is always something powerfully disconcerting when you switch between Apple devices of the same type but different sizes, so familiar are they as everyday objects – but perhaps the previous version of the watch had its proportions just right.
If you’re after proportional restraint, the 41mm version of Apple Watch 7, arguably more elegant on the wrist, now boasts almost as much screen as the 44mm version of Apple Watch 6. And it will be interesting to see if there is now an uptick in sales of the smaller (and less expensive) model or if more out-trumps less.
Smartly, Apple has largely resisted the temptation to use the new watch’s extra screen space to over-elaborate digital complications and apps. Instead, these have simply been upsized, becoming more legible and usable (a mini keyboard now pops up in Messages, which is just about workable as long as you keep communications short and sweet).
App developers too have been told to show restraint when it comes to exploiting the possibilities of more display space.
In other news, the aluminium version of the watch now comes in five zingy colours.
Further Apple Watch 7 innovations include a faster charger, though battery life remains much as it was. The watch is 70 per cent brighter in its wrist-down dimmed mode, while Apple insists that the new watch’s crystal face is its most uncrackable, and the watch generally the most durable yet.
That extra durability and all-action ruggedness doubles down on the proposition that Apple Watch is as much a wellness and fitness machine as it is a time machine (especially if you shell out to use the Apple Fitness+ service). The old Breathe app has been rebranded Mindfulness, and now offers Reflect as well as Breathe mode and yet more exercise types are trackable.
iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max
If Apple Watch is all about self-quantification, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, released in late September 2021, are all about the camera. The Pro’s camera system now features Ultra-Wide, Wide, and Telephoto modes, performs even better in low light – a particular selling point of iPhone photography – while the video camera’s Cinematic mode offers budding or full-bloom directors depth-of-field transitions.
These upgrades are all about positioning the iPhone as a pro tool for photography and filmmaking but also recognise that the camera will increasingly be the functional focus of the smartphone. As AR advances, we will increasingly see and live life through the lens, communicating, socialising, experiencing, and shopping – often all at the same time – in the mixed-messaging landscape it creates. Taking pictures will just be a small, and increasingly quaint, part of what the camera is there to do.
This week’s launch of new 14in and 16in versions of the MacBook Pro, meanwhile, was framed less around functionality, specific or not, and more around raw power and performance. Apple presumes that you know what a MacBook Pro does; what you’re interested in is how fast and with what ease and fluidity it can do it.
The new MacBook Pros are powered by just-as-new M1 Pro or the even more supercharged M1 Max chips if you prefer, and promise a better and easier life for filmmakers, artists, graphic designers, music makers, photographers and more. The new Pros also feature, of course, better displays, better cameras, better sound but – to many people’s delight – no Touch Bar, the distracting, battery-draining but largely unused strip of touch-sensitive display added to MacBook Pros in 2016. §