Those of us watching Apple’s Wonderlust event all “knew” Apple would release the iPhone 15, Apple Watch Series 9, and Apple Watch Ultra 2 because, rumors aside, that’s essentially what the company does every year. However, a few of the company’s announcements—brief though they may have been—were less expected. Here are a few of them.
Roadside Assistance via Satellite
Emergency SOS via satellite was a magical breakthrough in last year’s iPhone 14 lineup, and while it has tallied some impressive saves (see “Emergency SOS via Satellite Saves Lives in Maui Fires,” 10 August 2023), most people are more likely to find themselves with a flat tire on a remote road than stuck on a mountain. Enter Apple’s new Roadside Assistance via satellite, which lets iPhone 14 and iPhone 15 users message a dispatcher over a satellite connection for non-emergency reasons such as being locked out of your car, being out of fuel or charge, suffering from a flat tire, your car refusing to start, or the vehicle being stuck. The process looked very similar to contacting emergency dispatchers using Emergency SOS via satellite. Roadside Assistance is launching in the US with the American Automobile Association (AAA), the country’s largest roadside assistance provider, and will be included in AAA membership. Those who aren’t AAA members can subscribe separately, though Apple didn’t share pricing.
Apple also shared a photo of Find My via satellite showing someone’s location but said nothing more about whether that experience now provides notifications. I’d still like to see Send My Current Location via satellite, as I suggested last year in “Testing Emergency SOS and Find My via Satellite” (21 November 2022). Emergency SOS and Find My via satellite will be available in 16 countries once Apple adds Spain and Switzerland this month, and Apple reiterated that they’ll be free for two years with the purchase of an iPhone 15 model. No mention was made of international coverage for Roadside Assistance via satellite.
iCloud Gains 6 TB and 12 TB Tiers
iCloud+ has long maxed out at 2 TB, but some Apple users need significantly more space. Apple said nothing about pricing during the Wonderlust event, but the company has since made a standalone announcement and updated the iCloud+ pricing page with the details: $29.99 for 6 TB and $59.99 for 12 TB. Not cheap, but it’s nice to see Apple acknowledging the need for more storage. Could Apple be working its way up to having Time Machine back up to iCloud in a future update?
FineWoven Replaces All Leather in Apple Products
As part of its efforts to make all its products carbon-neutral by 2030, Apple said it will no longer sell any products made with leather. It has been a long time since the Twentieth Anniversary Mac’s keyboard had leather palm rests, so this move affects only leather Apple Watch bands and iPhone cases. Apple is replacing them with a durable twill textile called FineWoven, made from 68% recycled content. Apple says it has “a subtle luster and a soft, suede-like feel” and will be available on iPhone MagSafe cases and wallets, plus the Magnetic Link and Modern Buckle Apple Watch bands.
Charge AirPods or Apple Watch from USB-C iPhones
As expected, Apple moved the iPhone 15 lineup to USB-C and released a USB-C charging case for the AirPods Pro. What I didn’t expect along with that announcement was something Apple slipped in quickly—you’ll be able to charge AirPods or an Apple Watch using one of the iPhone 15 models. That’s probably not life-changing for most people because keeping an iPhone charged is usually more important than sharing some juice with AirPods or an Apple Watch. But it might be handy in a pinch when you realize you forgot to charge either one before leaving the house.
Apple Continues to Focus on the Environment
Finally, although Apple has been talking more and more about its environmental efforts, this event focused on that topic far more than any previous one. That may have been because this year’s new products are largely evolutionary, so there wasn’t as much to say about them, but it’s also important that a company the size of Apple puts its environmental goals and achievements front and center. Nonetheless, it’s great to hear that the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 are both carbon neutral, at least with certain watch bands.
However, a 5-minute video that showed nervous Apple executives—including CEO Tim Cook and Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson—reporting to Mother Nature, played by Octavia Spencer, was… odd. It let Apple showcase some of its environmental talking points, but Mother Nature disputed some of them, harassed several presenters, and remained generally unamused throughout, concluding with a stare-down with Tim Cook before telling them she’d be back next year.