Apple Keynote 2019: Developer Highlights

Pere shares his highlights from Apple's 2019 keynote.
Pere Daniel Prieto
Pere Daniel Prieto
September 24, 2019

As you can imagine, we like to be up-to-date with the latest mobile-related releases and new products here at We Are Mobile First. The annual Apple events, as such, are prominent dates in our calendar. It has been a week since Apple’s September keynote so we’ve had plenty of time to process it and digest the various announcements. In this post, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the keynote highlights. 

Apple keynotes: what are they and what can we expect? 

September’s Keynote event is all about new products and tempting deals with absolutely no mention of any developer-related stuff. It thus tends to be around 40% interesting, since we discover all the new devices that we’ll need to support, and 60% boring as not every release will be of interest. 

Nevertheless, being a loyal Apple guy, I enjoy having a look at the shiny new products as it gives me a few things to add to my Christmas wish list!

So, let’s take a look at some of my personal Apple Event highlights!

Apple Arcade

The keynote opened with Apple Arcade - the first of two bold moves from Apple! 

Apple Arcade is a subscription service providing unlimited access to games for iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and Mac, with new content being added periodically. You’ll find it in the App Store following the release of iOS 13 (which is today!). 

The keynote featured gameplay from a couple of the games that will be available. They weren’t particularly as thrilling as I’d hoped upon first viewing but I imagine they’re relatively high-octane when played. 

The most impressive aspect of Apple Arcade, however, is the subscription price. 

It’s only $5 per month for a family subscription. It’s a little bit more expensive here in Spain at €5 per month, due to the current dollar-euro ratio, but it still seems like good value for money. In addition, there’s a one-month trial period!

Why do I believe this is a bold move? 

There are several platforms providing access to games, such as Steam or Origin, but none of those platforms offer subscriptions with unlimited access to ‘cross-platform’ games. I say ‘cross-platform’ games in such a way because, even if it’s true that the games support multiple really different platforms and operating systems, Catalyst is making the boundaries between those really diffuse now. 

There are, however, still several questions that are left unanswered where Apple Arcade is concerned.

  • Will the games be completely free (due to the subscription) or will they have in-app purchases? 
  • Will some of the games require a minor surplus to be downloaded? 
  • What kind of games will be available? 
  • Will there be backwards compatibility? Can we install a game from an iOS 13 device, for example, and then download it from an iOS 12 device with a shared Apple account?

We shall have to wait and see! 

In any case, it seems like a really interesting service that’s certainly worth a try all thanks to the free trial! 

Apple TV+

Following Apple Arcade, we turned our collective attention to Apple TV+. A service that was originally announced on March 25th under the catchy tagline “It’s Show Time!”.

Apple TV+ is Apple’s new video content streaming service and was, in my opinion, the second bold move from Apple during this keynote.

Apple TV+ will start streaming several shows from November 1st and they’ll be adding new content on a monthly basis. Original content includes See. See is a brand new TV series, starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard, set in a world where the surviving humans are all blind due to a terrifying virus. I can’t wait to watch it!

As with Apple Arcade, however, the most astonishing aspect of Apple TV+ is the subscription price. It, again, costs just $5 per month for a family subscription. This is way cheaper than almost any other subscription to a video streaming service, with the exception of Amazon Prime Video.

Why do I believe this is a bold move?

In this case, contrary to Apple Arcade, the reason is that there are already a lot of well established video streaming services which boast really cool and widely diverse content. Moreover, the behemoth that is Disney will soon be entering the market with the birth of their very own platform, Disney+. A platform that will host all the MCU titles and Star Wars titles to name a few!

Apple is trying to get into a market where there is a lot of hard competition. I believe the first steps are encouraging, with the low subscription prices and seemingly high quality original content, but we’ll need to wait a few more months before we can truly gauge the outcome. 

The trial period for Apple TV+ is just a couple of weeks but buying any new Apple device from here on out will give you a year’s worth of Apple TV+ to enjoy. 

Don’t know which new device to buy? Keep reading! 

Apple Watch Series 5

After the services presentation, the keynote focused on new devices. The first to be announced was Apple Watch Series 5 which only offers minor improvements when compared to the Series 4 model.

The major new feature is a Retina display that is always on. The addition of this new display means you can easily glance down at your watch at any time without having to lift your arm to activate the display. This new display also uses more power-efficient LTPO technology, so it draws less energy than the Series 4, which will help the new Watch sport an 18-hour battery life according to Apple.

Another addition is… please don’t laugh... a compass. Okay, let me stop here for a minute. A compass?! Really, Apple?! A damn compass?!?! If the previous series didn’t need one, why do we suddenly need one now?! 

It is, of course, a device where a compass may seem most useful, especially for the more adventurous individuals out there. There are, however, many instances where it’s now much easier to check maps for directions on your smartwatch than on your phone. Is it really needed? Why was it announced as if it was a revolutionary feature? 

Honestly, my disappointment and embarrassment almost killed me there and then.

In addition to these outstanding features, the new Apple Watch is made from 100% recycled aluminum (except for the ceramic model) which is further proof of their commitment to the development of environmentally-friendly technology.

iPad (7th Generation)

The second new device being presented was an unexpected one: a new iPad! 

After the release of the iPad Pro in the last WWDC, we weren’t expecting any new iPad models until next year. However, Apple decided to surprise us by renewing the 9.7-inch iPad.

This new 7th generation iPad is essentially an upgrade of the previous iPad model with a more powerful A10 processor and a slightly larger screen (10.2 inches instead of 9.7). It’s also the first basic iPad (non-Pro model) to come with support for Apple’s smart keyboard, giving keyboard warriors a genuine reason to consider the iPad. Finally, the new iPad is also made from 100% recycled aluminum, making it more environmentally friendly.

The most impressive feature of this new iPad, however, is its price. It’s a really economical  device by Apple standards that’s also powerful enough for common tasks or playing low-impact games. To be honest, I’m still playing demanding video games on my old 3rd generation iPad - which proves that iPads are really powerful devices even if the specs aren’t that outstanding.

Contrary to the iPad Pro, this new iPad is exactly what the average user will need on a daily basis and, therefore, the price is set accordingly. 

It went directly onto my Christmas wish list!

iPhone 11

After the unexpected new iPad announcement, we got to the introduction of the new iPhone devices!  

It’s well-known by most Apple device users that the iPhone XR, which was released in 2018, was met with huge success thanks to the combination of an outstandingly powerful chip (the A12 - which is the same as in the iPhone XS or iPad Pro), a good camera and a hefty battery life. 

The first model they announced at the keynote was its successor: the iPhone 11

Whilst it has the same display as the iPhone XR, the big change is the addition of another camera lens. It has two 12-megapixel lenses, one of which is an ultra-wide-angle lens to provide stunning landscape shots. The other 12-megapixel lens is a regular wide-angle lens.

The camera now also includes a Night Mode, like that of recent phones from Google and Huawei. It’ll come on automatically when required, boosting light, reducing noise, and allowing users to take great photos in much lower lighting. Video capabilities have been boosted too and there’s support for 4K video at 60 frames-per-second. The new Quick Take feature makes taking video much easier too! Simply hold down the camera button to start taking videos.

The specs have seen a boost too, of course. The iPhone 11 is powered by Apple’s new A13 Bionic chip which Apple boasts is the most powerful processor to date. Battery life has also seen a boost with Apple claiming the iPhone 11 will exceed the iPhone XR’s already hefty battery life by a full hour.

Finally, the iPhone 11 is roughly $50 cheaper than its predecessor on launch which makes it really appealing. Moreover, Apple will keep the iPhone XR and the iPhone 8 in stores with a price reduction - so you don’t need to buy the latest model if you prefer a cheaper phone.

In my opinion, the iPhone 11 is the natural evolution of the iPhone XR but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it. It’s a powerful phone with a really cool dual-camera system and outstanding battery life. 

iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max

As usual, the final Act was devoted to the announcement of the most powerful device.

Apple’s flagship release in 2019 is the introduction of the ‘Pro’ family: the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. As expected, both devices are the natural evolution of the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, respectively.

The first thing that caught my attention during this part of the keynote was the triple camera system. Indeed, both devices come with three 12-megapixel lenses comprised of a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens, and the new ultra-wide-angle lens. 

But it’s not just about the hardware. Apple is also introducing a new piece of software called Deep Fusion, which uses machine learning to blend together a number of long and short exposure photos to create a single, impressive image.

During the announcement, Apple displayed several pictures and videos taken by professional photographers and filmmakers using only an iPhone 11 Pro device and the results were stunning. 

As expected, a new iPhone means a new processor. Both iPhone 11 Pro models come with Apple’s new A13 Bionic processor. The A13 is as powerful as you’d expect but, more importantly, Apple have paid special attention to making it battery efficient as well as powerful.

As per Apple’s announcement, the iPhone 11 Pro will last up to four hours longer than the iPhone XS, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max should last for five hours longer than the iPhone XS Max. If true, that’s a huge improvement.

Nevertheless, I am skeptical because the battery life is tied to the usage. Four more hours of battery life doing what

If it’s whilst the phone is in Sleep Mode it's a nice improvement but your phone isn’t on Sleep Mode for the whole day. If it’s whilst the phone is streaming content, that’s really impressive. If it’s while the phone is rendering 3D graphics on a highly demanding video game, it’s the most outstanding improvement ever… and also probably not true. The test conditions were not explicitly shared so I remain skeptical for now. 

In addition to the above, both devices now feature a new Super Retina XDR technology display which Apple claims to be its best ever and will ship with a fast charger. This will mark the first time an iPhone has shipped with a fast charger.

In my opinion, the improvements of the iPhone 11 Pro on its predecessor make it not worth buying for the average user. In essence, Apple created an outstanding camera system with an extremely powerful processor and image/video edition system attached directly to it. Therefore, unless used by a semi-professional photographer or filmmaker, none of the improvements are really significant.

Anyone will be able to take stunning pictures and videos with these new devices but almost no one will be able to tell the difference against the same picture/video taken from an iPhone XS unless you use features that are specific to the iPhone 11 Pro. 

In conclusion...

I believe that, for the first time ever, I’ve found the services presented far more interesting than the actual devices.

To be honest, with the exception of the new iPad which was a surprise for everyone watching, there’s no real appeal for me when it comes to the new devices. The iPhone 11 is a really good phone if you own an old device (iPhone 8 or lower) but the improvement over the iPhone XR is not significant enough with the exception of the camera.

I am particularly disappointed with the iPhone 11 Pro (and Max). In previous keynotes, Apple was able to surprise us with new designs or huge improvements but the improvement from an iPhone XS to an iPhone 11 Pro is not worth the price of the new phone. As previously mentioned, the only exceptions to this are photographers and filmmakers who may be able to squeeze the new triple camera system and the extended battery life to the limit. 


What were your highlights from the keynote? Tweet us and we’ll be sure to retweet the responses!

We Are Mobile First is a digital product agency based in Barcelona helping to transform businesses in a mobile-first world. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Medium to be notified of our future posts and stay up-to-date with our company news.

We share weekly content on everything from our WWDC 2019 Highlights to Apple Books: Recreating the UI Animations.