At its annual September launch event yesterday, Apple announced, as usual, a few major updates to existing products, as well as a few major pieces of technology that are entirely new—for the company, at least. The iPhone 6S offers a slew of hardware upgrades and a new, rose gold color. The iPad Pro is the largest yet, with an attendant keyboard and a new stylus, the Apple Pencil. Even the Apple TV is getting a comprehensive re-launch, as something that's actually useful.
The ostentatious array of products—more ideas in more iterations than ever before—demonstrates Apple's newfound willingness to occupy more than your pocket and your desk. Rather than executing a few things perfectly and overhauling our lives in the process, the company is hoping that it can accomplish something less revolutionary but perhaps also a little less risky: slowly infiltrating every corner of our lives until Apple becomes the native platform for everything.
The event showed an Apple willing to occupy niches it had not previously expressed public interest in. But this shouldn't come as too much of a shock; for a business reportedly eyeing self-driving cars, anything is possible. As with Google's transformation into Alphabet, essentially a technology holding company for technology holding companies, Apple is both diversifying and decentralizing. It's getting harder to know what the business actually is, aside from a set of killer consumer technology products. It's less about a device, and more about a lifestyle brand—the same way you can buy all your clothes at Uniqlo.
Here's a sector-by-sector breakdown of all the ways Apple is sneaking into your daily life, work, and play.
The 12.9-inch iPad Pro isn't just aimed at everyday users watching Netflix on the couch. It's billed as a business tool, an upmarket product to sell at high volumes to companies relying on the previous iPads' underdeveloped technology as a medium for displaying business presentations and conference room scheduling. With the attendant Pencil, the Pro is less iPad iteration than it is a brand new product.
"The future of TV is apps," read one mammoth propagandistic slogan on the giant screen behind Tim Cook during the recent event. Apple hopes that its set-top computer will change the way we watch TV—namely, by doing it through Apple's channels instead of, say, Comcast's. But if the future of TV is apps, then its present also is. While Netflix and Hulu already exist in the official App Store, Apple will have to absorb other companies' offerings as cable packages, like HBO and ESPN, slowly become unbundled.
Apple might also find it advantageous to launch its own offerings, like an iTunes or Apple Music for TV. To advance into this particular market, the company must offer something different, or else best its competitors on their on-demand or original offerings. Between the various platforms, the war over the best content is likely to heat up.
But Apple has a secret weapon. Even as Nintendo falters, iOS has become a bigger and better home for video games than ever before. The company is pushing into that market with the new, higher-resolution iPad Pro screen and the easy access to the app store that the enhanced Apple TV will provide.
While high-end video games are currently a niche product for Apple's marketplace, that's changing. Some of the biggest developers in the world are making video games specifically for iOS, and Square has even ported its iconic Final Fantasy series onto the platform. Nintendo just took the plunge, announcing an original mobile Pokemon augmented reality game.
Apple may have bought the headphone manufacturer Beats, but the real money lays in selling music, not equipment. Spotify has dominated the streaming market as of late, an arena iTunes could have taken an early lead on, but stalled. The company is trying to enter the competition with Apple Music, but it's not catching on. That's why the surprise appearance of the band One Republic at the unveiling event was seen as something of a Hail Mary—an attempt to get some press for a problem Apple is still trying to solve.
Technology has become a fashion. Apple is taking advantage of our obsessive consumerism by spinning out luxury versions of its previously (relatively) democratic devices. Hence the decorative new rose gold hue of the iPhone 6S (gold and silver are the alternatives) and the company's collaboration with the French fashion brand Hermès for a new Apple Watch band that looks like, well, a minimalist leather watch band, but retails at $1,100 with a buckle that "recalls those on the straps of a horse's girth."
The internal watch technology is no different, but the presentation certainly is, and Apple is happy to charge extra for it.
The biggest innovation unveiled at Apple's event is "3D Touch," an interactive mechanism enabled by a layer of capacitive sensors beneath the phone's backlight. In addition to sensing your finger, the phone can now sense how hard you push. It's a kind of right-click for the touchscreen; 3D Touch unveils a layer of informational detail before moving into an app or through a link.
Maybe it's 3D Touch that really explains Apple's new mission. Not content with providing the devices we've become inextricably addicted to, the company now wants to provide the medium through which we experience technology. The lifestyle this provides is frictionless, seamless, and perfectly interactive, linking our televisions to our work tools to the heartbeat communicated through our wrists. It is pleasingly minimalist yet obviously luxurious. It is, above all, Apple, which is suddenly everywhere.
Disruptions is Kyle Chayka's weekly column for Pacific Standard about personal technology and the way it influences our daily lives.