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Far Out Review Pt. 1 – Apple Watch 8 & AirPods Pro 2

The wait is over, and this time Apple delivered!

Apple Watch 8 & Far Out
image courtesy of author

That was a busy one

So, after weeks of anticipation, speculation and double-guessing, Far Out streamed last night, and it was super busy.

Unless, similar to the Peak Performance event this spring, there was a live element for the press in attendance, it would appear to have been completely pre-recorded. It was a longish event at just under 1hr 45 minutes, but packed none-the-less.

Clearly, the star of the show was always going to be iPhone 14, but we also got AirPods Pro 2 and two new Apple Watches – the 8 and Ultra.

The leakers love to think they are all over it, but Apple still managed to surprise! The invite, as it turns out, did have a clue to the event this time, as the satellite-based Emergency SOS feature was included on iPhone 14.

As there is so much to get through, for the last two blogs this week, I thought I’d split the event in two. Today I will look over Apple Watch & AirPods Pro 2, and then tomorrow, will be all about iPhone 14.

It seemed to me, the only way to give it the detail required was to cover Far Out over two days.

Apple Watch 8

Further enhancements this year, for the number one selling smartwatch in the world, now for seven, consecutive years.

Apple Watch 8 has a large, always-on display, with narrow borders, and now boasts even more watch faces, including Astronomy, Cosmopolitan, Lunar and my favourite – Modular. Series 8 Apple Watch has improved durability as well, being both swim & dust-proof, and crack resistant as well.

Packed with all the normal functions such as Medical ID, Fall Detection & Mindfulness, there were two, big features added this year to Apple Watch – Temperature & Crash Detection.

The temperature sensor is aimed at ovulation tracking. It will provide wearers with a retrospective estimate of their ovulation. Two sensors, one front & one back of Apple Watch, will provide the data. Using the two sensors improves the reliability of the data given. The sensor next to the skin can detect variations of just 0.1 degree, and it’ll track your temperature every 5 seconds. This level of information will help indicate any Biphasic shift – a typical ovulation curve when the temperatures rise around mid-cycle and stay up until the next menstrual period.

As you’d expect, this highly personal data is encrypted end-to-end, meaning not even Apple have access to it. The data is on-device only, and within the health app, you have, total, granular control of whom you share your data with.

Crash Detection also works via two sensors – a 3-axis gyroscope and a high g-force accelerometer. Metrics were gathered, from studying crash data, with impacts from the front, side, rear & roll-over collisions being taken in to account. The data is gathered so quickly, using GPS tracking, a barometer, and even the on-board microphones, that it is claimed Apple Watch 8 can detect the precise moment of any impact. Once again, this data is stored on device only.

A new low-power mode improves the battery life, now giving up to 36 hours of use. Low-power mode will disable some functionality, such as the always-on display, whilst retaining other functions like activity tracking. The aluminium cases are 100% recycled, and come in four colour options – midnight, starlight, silver, and product red. The stainless-steel option comes in just three colours – silver, gold & graphite. Cellular models will now be enabled with international roaming.

The popular Nike options gets some updates to their bands, and the Nike faces can now be used on any Apple Watch. The Hermes watch gets two new bands and a new, equestrian-based face as well. You’ll get 3 months free Fitness + with any Apple Watch purchase.

Apple Watch 8 is available to order now, and I have placed my order this morning. Mine arrives 21st September. Prices start from £419.

Apple Watch Ultra

No one got the name on this one right. The watch is directly aimed at Garmin users.

The case is made from ultra-tough aero-grade titanium. The case goes flush to the sapphire glass, to improve overall durability. The face is huge at 49mm, larger than the anticipated 47mm.

The larger, digital crown is now proud of the body, making it more accessible, even if wearing gloves. There is a new Action button & the display is the brightest ever, at up to 2000 nits. Apple Watch Ultra has an upgraded audio system with three microphones and an extra speaker. The watch will emit a distress signal of 86dB, meaning it can be heard up to 180m away.

The already long battery life, will get a bump later this year, of up to 60 hours for multi-day use, with an optimisation setting coming in the fall.

The Wayfinder face is totally redesigned, with a major re-work of the compass, now suited to mountaineers & trekkers alike. Three very distinct bands have been developed for Ultra, to cover all use cases. There is an Alpine loop for explorers, an Ocean band for divers, and a Trail loop for endurance athletes. By rotating the Crown, the watch face will turn red for enhanced nigh-time visibility. Apple Watch Ultra operates in extreme temperatures from -20 degrees to over 50 degrees Celsius. It is made completely from recycled materials as Apple aims to become carbon Neutral, company-wide, by 2030.

Connectivity is improved with dual-band L1 and L5 GPS. It features an Oceanic + app developed by Huish Outdoors, and complies with the diving standard EN 13319, for dive computers & gauges.

Apple Watch Ultra will cost £849. You can, it order now, and it’ll be available 23rd September.

AirPods Pro 2

The current generation of AirPods Pro is now three years old, so was due an upgrade.

The chip has been replaced and will now be powered by the H2 chipset. The audio is improved, as you’d expect, with a new low-distortion driver and a custom amp. Spatial Audio, has received a worked-over. Using the True Depth camera, the Spatial Audio app will now measure your ears & head, to provide a truly personalised listening experience.

I am a big fan of Automatic Noise Cancelling (ANC), and this is now improved on AirPods 2 with up to twice the amount of ANC. This feature is improved with the addition of an Extra Small silicon ear-tip, to ensure a better, in-ear fit for more users. Adaptive Transparency will monitor and measure any high decibel noises 48,000 times per second, cancelling the frequencies before you hear them. All this will help for a less harmful, more immersive listening experience.

Controlling AirPods Pro 2 just got improved! The previous touch force sensor is augmented with Touch Control, which has a capacitive sensing layer. This means, you’ll be now able to control volume via the stems as well as receiving calls.

Battery life of the AirPods themselves is up by a third, with 6 hours of playback now a possibility. Add the case to the mix, and you’ll now have up to 30 hours of use, from a single, full charge.

Speaking of the case, changes have also been made to that.

Using U1 technology, precision finding of each ear bud is enabled through the FindMy network. There is a speaker in the case, which will helpfully play an alert, assisting you further find misplaced AirPods. The speaker is not only there to help you find lost AirPods though, it will make sounds when the battery is low, when pairing starts and when charging a low battery. There is a lanyard hook on the case now too, as we’d anticipated.

Charging will now be via MagSafe and also with your Apple Watch charger. You’ll be able to place an order for AirPods Pro 2 from 1pm this Friday, with delivery on 23rd September. They’ll cost £249.

Wrapping up

So, that is a pretty comprehensive account of both Apple Watch and AirPods 2, which accounted for the first part of the Far Out event.

As I said, there was so much to cover, there was no way it could all fit in to one blog, so I will cover iPhone 14 & iPhone 14 Pro tomorrow.

Were you tempted, like I have been, with anything that was shown off last night? What caught your imagination, and will you be hovering on the order page tomorrow?

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