Apple’s September event took place on the 7th of September, and was streamed on YouTube, as well as on their website. In this blog, I’m going to go through everything they announced at the event, as well as my personal thoughts on all of their September announcements, to give my thoughts regarding if the releases are accessible enough, and if they are actually worth your money.
Apple Watch Series 8
The Apple Watch Series 8 is one of the newest models of Apple Watch released by Apple, which still gives you a choice between a 41mm or 45mm size option. The design still features the same rounded edges, slim-bordered display and sapphire crystal backing that we’ve seen in previous models, with the Digital Crown with haptic feedback not even offering anything largely different from what was offered before.
But where we really see the difference between the Apple Watch Series 8 is with the software.
The Series 8 comes with an Always On display, which — as the name suggests — means users will be able to see their watch face at all times. It also has a crack resistant front glass, IP6X dust resistance, and a WR50 water resistance rating. And like the Apple Watch Series 7, you can pay for purchases using the Wallet App, and it also has the same faster charging speeds as the Series 7.
The Heart Rate Monitor, Blood Oxygen Detection, ECG Readings, Sleep Tracking, Fall Detection and Loud Noise Monitoring that have been included in previous models continue to exist, but Apple has added a couple of more features as well. The next generations have a built in temperature sensor, that captures temperature information from the back of the watch near the skin. This makes it helpful for people who have changing baseline temperatures, be that as a result of exercise, jet lag, or illness, and I personally think it’s a good feature for the likes of myself, as one of my other conditions is Protective Hyperthermia.
The temperature sensor, however, also provides women with retrospective ovulation estimates, as well as improved period predictions.
Another new feature is Crash Detection, which can detect when you have been in a car crash and phone your local emergency services. Included on the new iPhone line up as well, this means that when a crash occurs, the Apple Watch will check with the user, and if no response is received within ten seconds, emergency responders will be contacted.
Battery life on the watch remains the same up to 18 hours, but Low Power Mode has now been added to WatchOS 9, similar to what you have on iPhones, iPads and Macs. With Low Power Mode on, your Apple Watch will remain charged for 36 hours. But a warning: this does disable Always On Display, turns off background heart rate measurements, limits WIFI and cellular connections, and more. So in the theme of Halloween soon approaching, DO IT, IF YOU DARE!
The Apple Watch Series 8 offers both a GPS and Cellular model, and later this year, Apple plans to add support for International Roaming, so it will be possible for Watch users to connect to a Cellular plan, even when abroad.
The Apple Watch is available in aluminium and stainless steel, with the aluminium colours including Starlight, Midnight, Silver and Product ReD. The stainless steel models come in Silver, Graphite and Gold.
There are also new bands available as well.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is available from £419, but will cost more at £779 if you want to buy it with a leather strap.
New Apple Watch SE
The new Apple Watch SE is similar to the Apple Watch Series 8, but has a couple features that are different.
- A choice between a 40mm or 44mm watch display
- A Retina display which lacks the Always On option
- Cycle Tracking without retrospective ovulation estimates
However, all the other features are the same.
You can even set family planning up on this watch (which you can also do on the other models), but this watch will allow kids who don’t yet have an iPhone to text their family members, at a cheaper price of £259 for most models.
Apple Watch Ultra
The Apple Watch Ultra may look the same as an Apple Watch Series 8, but it is completely different.
Designed for Explorers, Sports Enthusiasts and Athletes, the Apple Watch Ultra was built for endurance, exploration and adventure, and it is the largest Apple Watch to date, with a screen size of 49mm.
Built with a lightweight aerospace-grade titanium body, a flat sapphire crystal face, a larger diameter and deeper grooved Digital Crown, a housing for the side button and an extra physical, customisable button on the left side called the action button, this is the first redesign of the Apple Watch we’ve seen in years!
At up to 2000 nits, the Apple Watch Ultra is the brightest Apple Watch to date. It can also turn red at night, for better visibility.
The action button is orange so that it is noticeable in the dark and under water, and is customisable so it can activate workouts, mark segments, set Compass Waypoints and more.
There are three built in microphones, and a beam forming algorithm captures voice whilst reducing background sounds, even when it’s noisy outside.
There is also an 86-decibel siren for drawing help if you need it, with two SOS patterns.
Unlike the Series 8, the Apple Watch Ultra’s battery lasts for up to 36 hours on a single, with Low Power mode lasting for up to 60 hours for multi-day adventuring. This will give those who use it long enough to complete a long-course triathlon that includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon, for any madly athletic people who think they could do that.
Other features the Apple Watch Ultra comes with are:
- A dual-frequency GPS, that integrates both the L1 and L5 frequencies, as well as coming with new positioning algorithms. This makes it the most accurate GPS on any Apple Watch.
- The ability to withstand a wider temperature range, that can detect conditions as cold as -4 degrees, or as high as 131 degrees.
- The ability to hold up extremely well with water sports, with the Apple Watch being certified WR100 and EN 13319, meaning it has been endorsed by the international standards for diving accessories. If users use it for diving, the Apple Watch Ultra will offer a depth gauge, as well as a dedicated Depth app, allowing users to measure depth. water temperature, duration under water, and max depth reached.
- A Wayfinder watch face, that also comes with a built-in compass and space for up to eight complications. This watch face can be customised whether you’ve chosen a mountain, ocean or trail, and it also offers a Backtrack feature using GPS, which can help users retract their steps if they get lost.
The Watch also comes with all the functionality features that come with the Series 8, but is available in only one titanium colour, though you can buy different colours of loops.
In the UK, the Apple Watch Ultra costs £849.
2nd Generation AirPods Pro
We also got news about the next generation of Apple’s AirPod Pro earphones, which now come empowered with the H2 Chip, and helps to unlock a breakthrough audio performance!
This audio performance includes major upgrades to Apple’s famous Active Noise cancellation — which makes you feel like you’re in the front row of your favourite music concert — while also introducing a new feature into their Transparency Mode, called Adaptive Transparency.
Adaptive Transparency helps you listen to music while also hearing the many sounds from the world around you, be that cars, drilling, a cooker and more!
But another feature that this next generation also comes with is Touch control, which can be used with Media Playback and Volume Adjustments, although this might make them slightly inaccessible for some people with physical disabilities.
Other features the 2nd Generation AirPod Pros come with are:
- Better battery life, up to 30 hours listening time, six hours more than the previous generation.
- A brand new charging case, with two new microphones included with it, capable of setting off that alerts you to where you last placed them if you’ve lost them.
- And additional ear tip sizes offering different sizes for better fits.
You can buy the 2nd generation AirPod Pros for £249 in the UK, and it is free to add an engraving.
Apple’s iPhone 14 Series
One of Apple’s biggest announcements in their September event was the release of the iPhone 14, which is now available in 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch sizes, and which also confirms rumours that surfaced for quite a number of months, that Apple were going to ditch the iPhone Mini for this series.
Iphone 14 / iPhone 14 Plus
Other than the size differences between the two models (which are completely identical to the iPhone 13 models), the iPhone 14 doesn’t really offer that much different compared to last year’s iPhone 13, other than a few features, which for the most part, are available on the iPhone 13 through a software update.
Both the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus continue to have a notch (not to be confused with the iPhone 14 Pro, which does not), and like the iPhone 13, both models have a Super Retina XDR OLED Display, a 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio, Dolby Vision and True Tone. You also get up to 1200 nits peak brightness, but no ProMotion display technology is available in the standard iPhone 14 models, so if that is something you care about, you’ll have to look at one of the other options.
Like other models, the iPhone 14 also has a durable Ceramic Shield, and if underwater photography is your thing, it’s also IP68 water resistant, which means they can withstand a depth of 6 meters in water for up to 30 minutes.
The chip in the iPhone 14 models is the same A15 chip that is in the iPhone 13, but one of the things that has been updated is the internal design update, which has given it better thermal performance.
Regarding the camera, the iPhone 14 Pro’s camera has been updated to a 12-megapixel Wide camera with a larger sensor, that also has an f / 1.5 aperture, and larger 1.9 pixels, for better low light performance. Other features include sensor-shift optical image stabilisation, as well as an added updated TrueDepth camera, which has an f/1.9 aperture.
The Ultra Wide lens is one area that didn’t get any improvements, but the new Photonic Engine helps improve low light photography up to 2x on the Ultra Wide Camera, 2x on the TrueDepth camera, and 2.5x on the Wide Camera.
Videographers will also be able to take advantage of new features too, with a new video feature called Action Mode. This provides smooth-looking video with better image stabilisation than ever before, with the ability to adjust to significant shakes, motion and vibrations, even when video is captured in the middle of action. This would have only been possible before after purchasing a gimbal to attach to your phone, but they still do work extremely well, if you’re someone who is planning to hold on to an older phone.
Cinematic mode has also been improved and is available in 4K at 30 fps, as well as 4K at 24 fps. The True Tone flash is 10% brighter, with better uniformity for more consistent lighting.
Other features the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Plus include are:
- A dual-core accelerometer
- A high dynamic range gyroscope
- Crash Detection (the same that is available on the Apple Watch)
- Emergency SOS via Satellite, which allows iPhone 14 to connect directly to satellites if you’re ever in danger somewhere where neither WiFi or Cellular support are available.
- eSim support, meaning that some iPhone models will not require a physical SIM card.
(WARNING: Emergency SOS via satellite and eSIM are currently not being tested in the United Kingdom / British Isles, and so far are only available in the U.S. and Canada).
But other than these features, a lot of what the iPhone 14 has to offer is pretty much the same as last year’s iPhone 13.
Like the 13, the 14 supports 5G, and it also supports MagSafe Charging, as well as fast charging. But if battery life is something you care about, you will get improved battery life on the iPhone 14. Still, it’s only one hour more than the iPhone 13 if you buy the base model — though the 14 Plus does have an even larger battery life, which lasts for 20 hours (but as an iPhone 13 user, the battery life on that phone is not bad in the slightest).
In the UK, the iPhone 14 is available for £849, while the iPhone 14 Plus is available for £949. Both the iPhone 14 and 14 Plus come in Midnight, Starlight, Blue, Purple and Product Red, most of which are also colour options for the iPhone 13.
iPhone 14 Pro / Pro Max
Featuring a more futuristic design with Dynamic Island, a faster A16 chip, a 48-megapixel camera, as well as the other features available on the 14 and 14 Max such as Crash Detection, Satellite Connectivity etc, the iPhone 14 Pro models offer a different experience for its users than the less expensive models, while still offering roughly the same build, minus a few details.
There’s a bigger camera bump on this phone to accommodate for the larger megapixel camera, and both the Pro and Pro Max models also come without a notch, instead featuring the all new Dynamic Island.
The Dynamic Island is a pill-shaped cutout at the front of the display that houses camera equipment, and that can also change its shape and size, depending on what you’re using and what else is on the screen. Capable of adapting in real time to showing alerts, notifications and activities in the space where the notch used to be, there is also more hardware under it, which allows the TrueDepth camera to take up less space and to make the Dynamic Island blend into the background.
Another feature that the 14 Pros offers that the 14 and 14 Max does not is a Super Retina XDR display with updated ProMotion technology, which comes with an Always On display, the same as what we get with the new version of Apple Watch. This means that when the Always On display is active, the time, widgets and Live Activities will still be available at a glance, while the wallpaper will be dimmed.
The brightness available with the 14 Pros is capable of reaching 2000 nits, putting it on power with the Pro Display XDR. It also offers the highest outdoor peak brightness of any smartphone, and is twice as bright as the iPhone 13 Pro when in sunny conditions, though let’s admit it, the iPhone 13’s brightness is still extremely good.
The A16 Chip offers a 6-core faster CPU performance, as well as an accelerated 5-core GPU with 50% more memory bandwidth, and an updated 16-core neural engine.
With the 48-megapixel Wide camera that comes with a quad-pixel sensor, capable of adapting to any photo captured, the 48-megapixel photos can be compressed into a 13-megapixel photo.
The 14 Pro and Pro Max models also allow photographers to shoot at full 48 Megapixels with ProRaw, which helps bring us closer to the iPhone becoming even more like a professional photo or video camera.
However, all the other features that the Pro and Pro Max come with is completely identical to the 14 and 14 Max, with Photonic Engine, Action Mode, Emergency SOS via satellite, and Crash Detection.
But on a good note, you’ll now be able to do Apple Fitness workouts on the iPhone 14 without an Apple Watch. Saying that, the same feature will also be available on the iPhone 13 and any phone capable of running the current version of IOS, so you can still take advantage of it for cheaper.
So starting from the start, I think Apple announced good releases at their September event, but as far as accessibility and whether or not they are worth your money goes, I have mixed thoughts.
Although the Apple Watch, AirPods and iPhone 14s do come with good features, I feel like there needs to be more conversations about the accessibility features that they offer, because although one of them might be of interest to me at some point, two of them I feel are not offering the best accessibility features for someone like me at all.
I’ll start with things that I like about the newest Apple Watch models.
I like how the Apple Watch now has a temperature sensor, and that will be useful for disabled people who cannot regulate their body temperature. I also like the advances that have been made for the watch to work alongside women’s health, and the fact that the Apple Watch Ultra comes with a customisable button, means that the Apple Watch’s accessibility features are heading in the right direction.
However, the fact that the Crown on the Apple Watch still controls quite a lot, and can’t be matched to anything else, does still make it inaccessible. Although Smart Assistants have got better in recent years, they still can get what you say wrong, and it gets even more annoying when both can go off at the same time, if you have more than one device made by the same company. So would it even be possible to create a setting that allows you to talk to the smart assistant on one Apple device using “Hey Siri” and to change it to something like “Hey Apple” on another device, like how Amazon allows you to change their smart speaker’s name on one device so they don’t all go off at one time?
Turning now to the AirPods, I have to admit that — although I’ve seen them getting more and more popular in recent years — I’m still not the biggest fan of them. And going by everything that was announced in this latest release, I’m still not overly into them.
For starters, the price of some AirPods are too high, but that isn’t even my main problem. Although it’s cool that the charging case will now be able to alert you to where you’ve left the earphones if you’ve lost them, Touch Control makes them nearly as inaccessible as the Apple Watch. Robotics has improved a lot in recent years — as has headphones that you control using an app on your phone — so would it be possible for an AirPods app to include some of the features that you would use to control your headphones, but that would do it manually for people who can’t move?
And now for the iPhone 14s.
Personally — while the iPhone 14 might have a few good features — I think it’s definitely the iPhone 13 rebranded, with very little that is actually new.
As someone from the UK — and who therefore knows that some features will not be arriving in the UK until a later date — I don’t think they really offer much. Most of the features are updates that you can get on any phone running iOS Ventura anyway, and even with the features that are entirely exclusive to the iPhone 14 — such as Action Mode — you can still get on iPhone 13s or anything earlier as well, with the help of a Gimbal.
It is also much cheaper the buy a gimbal for your iPhone online — some of the cheapest ones on Amazon cost between £21-£31 — and they do just as good, so why would you want to bankrupt yourself any more in this cost of living crisis if you already have a good model?
The last thing that I would like to give my thoughts on, however, is the Crash Detection feature.
Although Crash Detection is a good idea, I think it needs to be advanced more to reach the point where it is truly accessible.
Obviously I hope that I will never be in the situation, and I am not looking round everyone surrounding me, planning for us to get into danger. But you can never be too careful nowadays, so I’m just going to lay out what the worse case scenario of a car crash would be for me.
If I was in the car with everyone when a car crash did happen, there might be a high likelihood that everyone else would be unconscious, while — due to the amount of clamps we have holding my wheelchair down, I would be the lone survivor. Leaning back on what I said about smart assistants earlier, they don’t always get what you’re trying to say right, which is why it would be good for Apple Watches and iPhones to also turn on loud speaker right away. And it’s even more important that this could be added for anyone who doesn’t have any movement below their head, in case something dangerous happens.
So to give my final answer as to whether Apple’s latest tech is accessible enough and worth your money, it is to an extent, but more advances need to be made in some areas, so it depends who you are.