Apple’s California Streaming event was full of product reveals, including the new iPhone 13 range, the Apple Watch Series 7, and more. But there were several other announcements I had hoped to see but didn’t — in fact, Apple might have missed a golden opportunity with some of them.
Sure, Apple was always going to save its Mac update for another event later this year. But that’s not what I’m talking about. No, there are some things that felt perfectly timed to make an appearance at the company’s September show, but for whatever reason, Apple decided to keep them under wraps. Here’s what we all missed out on.
The iPhone 13 that wasn’t
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It should come as no surprise that the iPhone 13 was the headline event at Apple’s California Streaming show. But for all its new features, from the new A15 Bionic chip to the smaller notch, there was a whole lot more I wanted to see.
For one thing, I was very surprised Apple still isn’t offering a 1TB storage option in all its iPhones. That sounds like a lot at first, and yes, that amount of storage is available in the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max. But every year, the iPhone’s video capabilities improve. Last year, we had Dolby Vision, and this year we got Cinematic mode. The entry-level iPhone 13 gets both of those, and all that high-end performance means ever-increasing file sizes, yet the iPhone’s storage hasn’t kept up. If you love shooting gorgeous videos on your phone and don’t want to shell out $1,000 or more for an iPhone 13 Pro, this could be a problem.
We only recently heard that Apple could kit its phones out with low-earth-orbit satellite tech to allow for calls and texts when you have no cell service. Subsequently, some people poured cold water on this idea, saying its actual purpose was to improve land-based 5G connectivity. Yet, reputable reporter Mark Gurman later alleged the satellite aspect was real, albeit only for emergency calls. It’s something you’d imagine Apple would make a big deal about (it’s simultaneously both nerdy and cool, after all), but our hopes were dashed when it was absent from the California Streaming show. Perhaps we’ll see it next year.
The Apple Watch’s missing features
Apple’s event wasn’t just about the iPhone 13 — the Apple Watch Series 7 got plenty of airtime, too. Yet for all the new features, there were some things I still wish had made the cut.
The main one I was looking forward to was less of a new feature than an entirely new edition of the wearable. In March 2021, Bloomberg’s Gurman claimed Apple was working on a rugged version of the Apple Watch aimed at athletes, hikers, and other sportspeople. The new Watch version would potentially be called the Explorer Edition and come with extra impact resistance and protection, perhaps to help it better survive knocks or last longer underwater.
When Apple first launched the Apple Watch in 2015, it positioned it as a fashion accessory. Yet over time, the company realized the device’s popularity lay with more fitness-conscious users, and the Watch has increasingly been outfitted with health sensors and sporty Nike bands to reflect that. A rugged edition would have been the perfect addition to the Apple Watch lineup this year, what with so many people taking up exercise over the course of the pandemic. Instead, it seems the job of redesigning the mainstream Apple Watch meant the company simply didn’t have the time to perfect an all-new Explorer Edition as well.
Perhaps it would have been more achievable to add extra health sensors to the Watch’s capabilities, and that was certainly rumored in the run-up to the event. Specifically, Nikkei Asia previously claimed the Series 7 could have come with a blood pressure sensor in addition to its existing array of features. Given how many people suffer from blood pressure problems, and how useful those sensors could be on an always-with-you Apple Watch, I can’t help thinking Apple has made a major omission here.
Stopping the App Store rot
If there’s one story Apple wishes would just go away, it’s the animosity directed toward its App Store. While its legal battle with Epic Games was decided mostly in Apple’s favor, the ongoing developer dismay despite the result — and Epic’s expected appeal — means this issue is far from settled. Apple could have gone a long way to winning over its developers by making changes to its App Store (by lowering its commission, for example), which would have helped take the sting out of the criticism at the same time. But perhaps emboldened by its success against Epic, Apple chose not to. That’s a shame.
That legal result was (mostly) music to Apple’s ears. What was not music to my ears, though, was the missing AirPods 3 update I had expected to see. Despite being declared a flop almost from the moment they went on sale, the little white buds have gone on to take over the world. But it’s been five years since their unveiling, and they’re really starting to creak now.
The main thing I expected to see with an AirPods revamp was a design overhaul. AirPods Pro are stubbier and, as a result, more compact. They look more subtle, less ostentatious, and just better overall. The word was that the regular AirPods were going to get a similar design treatment, albeit without the silicone tips of the AirPods Pro (no noise cancellation unless you pay up, I’m afraid). I expect that’s still in the cards, but since they didn’t make an appearance at the California Streaming show, chances are we’ll now have to wait until Apple’s next event to see the changes.