For the first time in years, Apple's iPhones aren't the star of the show. Apple unveiled a smartwatch called the Apple Watch on Tuesday, a wearable device that marks the company's first major entry in a new product category since the iPad's debut in 2010.
The move is significant because of recent questions about whether Apple still has a knack for innovating following the 2011 death of co-founder Steve Jobs.
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch (AFP)
Many companies have tried to push mobile payment services, but none has caught on widely. Cook says that's because the business models have been centered around companies' self-interest instead of the user experience. The latter, Cook says, is "exactly what Apple does best."
For security, the card number is stored only on the device. Each time you pay, a one-time card number is created to make the transaction.
The audience erupted with cheers as Cook proclaimed that he had, "one more thing." It was how Jobs used to close his keynote addresses.
That one more thing was Apple's upcoming smartwatch. It's called the Apple Watch, rather than the iWatch that many people had been speculating.
Consumer electronics companies have yet to demonstrate a compelling need for smartwatches, while bracelets have largely been niche products aimed at tracking fitness activities. Apple's device looks to change that.
A video about the Apple Watch (AFP)
Consider the company's track record: Music players, smartphones and tablet computers existed long before Apple made its own versions. But they weren't mainstream or popular until the iPod, iPhone and iPad came along. Under Jobs, Apple made those products easy and fun to use.
Cook says Apple had to invent a new interface for the watch because simply shrinking a phone wouldn't work.
Much of the interaction would be through the dial on the watch, which Apple calls the digital crown. You use that to zoom in and out of a map, for instance, so you're not blocking the screen, which would have occurred if you were pinching in and out to zoom.
Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about the Apple Watch (AFP)
The new watch will come in a variety of styles and straps, with a choice of two sizes. Watches from competing vendors have been criticized for being too big for smaller arms.
Though much of the attention has been on new gadgets, the software powering those gadgets is getting its annual refresh. Apple considers iOS 8 to be its biggest update since the introduction of the app store in 2008.
Existing iPhone and iPad users will be eligible for the free upgrade, too. Apple takes pride in pushing existing customers to the latest software, allowing app developers to incorporate new features without worrying about abandoning existing users. With Android, many recent phones can't be upgraded right away because of restrictions placed by manufacturers and wireless carriers.
Among other things, iOS 8 will let devices work better in sync. For instance, it'll be possible to start a message on an iPhone and finish it on an iPad. With an upcoming Mac upgrade called Yosemite, it'll be possible to continue working on that same message on a Mac computer as well.
The new iOS software will also let people do more things without jumping from app to app. For example, if a text message comes in as you're composing an email, you'll be able to pull down the text from the top edge and send a reply, all without leaving the email app.
A new keyboard aims to predict what you're about to type, going beyond standard spell-checking. You can install keyboards from outside parties, too, something Android already allows.
In fact, Apple is opening up more of its features to outside developers than in the past. The fingerprint sensor on iPhones won't be restricted to Apple's own services, for instance.
The new software will be available to existing users on Sept. 17.
Home and health
Apple is rolling out the HomeKit and HealthKit systems. The idea is to turn Apple's products into a suite of digital servants that do everything from monitoring a person's eating habits and exercise routines to turning on the coffee maker in the morning.
Again, Apple isn't first in offering home and health monitoring systems. But consumers haven't rushed to buy those systems partly because products from various manufacturers don't always work with one another. With HomeKit and HealthKit, Apple is seeking to create some unity - with Apple's devices serving as a hub.