CUPERTINO, Calif. — More than two years after the coronavirus pandemic, Apple took a big step on Monday to return to business as usual by inviting hundreds of software developers and journalists to campus to unveil a range of new software features that expand the capabilities of the iPhone. utility.
During a two-hour presentation, Apple unveiled a buy-now-pay-later program that spreads a purchase over several months, much like programs offered by PayPal and others. It also said it was expanding the ability to use an iPhone to unlock apartment doors, hotel rooms and rental cars. And it introduced a version of CarPlay that would take over a vehicle’s entire dashboard, displaying speed and fuel information, as well as maps and music.
Taken together, the new features show how Tim Cook, the chief executive, is still finding ways to extend the usefulness and longevity of Apple’s flagship product and squeeze more sales from it through features that push the company deeper into adjacent industries. such as finance, real estate and automobiles.
“They are the digital control center, expanding their reach as more and more devices become digitized,” said Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research, a company that specializes in technical research. “A lot of this isn’t going to change the world, but it’s improvements that bring a bit of freshness that people appreciate.”
The software updates continue years of silence in the introduction of a new product category from a company that made co-founder Steve Jobs synonymous with revolutionary new devices. Apple last unveiled a new product category, wearables, in 2014 when it introduced the Apple Watch.
The pandemic has helped sales of older Apple products soar. Students and employees forced to work from home have found it valuable to upgrade to the latest versions of their iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Many turned to video games and Apple TV+ subscriptions, pushing the company’s revenue up 33 percent to $366 billion last year.
On Monday, Apple tried to increase the momentum of its Macs by updating its most popular computer, the MacBook Air. The new version ditches a decade-old wedge-shaped chassis in favor of a slim, rectangular laptop. The computer is available in a variety of colors, including silver, space gray, gold, and dark blue. The new model is 20 percent smaller than its predecessor and weighs 2.7 pounds, the company said.
The MacBook Air is equipped with Apple’s latest processor, the M2, which the company said offered better performance even when less battery power was required.
The company said it was bringing more personalization to the iPhone, with the ability to customize the lock screen with colors, widgets, and live activities. The new software allows iPhone users to create custom lock screens for a variety of purposes, such as a work screen that shows a preview of a calendar, or a personal screen that shows activity activity data.
The new software features, part of Apple’s new iOS 16 operating system for iPhones, mirrored the features Google introduced for its Android system in 2021. Google created Material You, an offering that allows users to change the look of their lock screens by drawing from colors in their home screen wallpapers.
In addition to these updates, Apple said it was overhauling its messaging system to allow people to retrieve and edit texts after sending them. There’s also a new ability to compose messages by smoothly switching between typing text and dictating voice memos.
The company’s efforts to expand beyond its existing business expanded into new software for the iPad. It showcased new workplace collaboration tools called Freeform that allow colleagues to brainstorm on different devices simultaneously. The feature, similar to offerings from Microsoft and Google, has the potential to increase the value of the iPad for businesses.
Apple has also unveiled software updates to its smartwatch that will allow runners to track their gait — potentially forgoing work with trainers — and help people track the stages of their sleep cycle.
The presentation was Apple’s first major event on its Cupertino campus since 2019. In light of rising coronavirus cases in the Bay Area, the company has installed screens and chairs outside its cafeteria in the heart of its $5 billion campus, Apple Park. Among those in attendance were developers, journalists and store workers, a group Apple is eager to improve relations with amid an increase in union organizing.
While the event focused on existing products, hints were given of a virtual reality product that the company hopes will be the next business-changing device. Apple said it made it easier for apps to use Siri by creating a shortcut that would allow apps to communicate with voice in future headsets, said a person familiar with the project. It also showed a demonstration of a new Resident Evil video game with the kind of advanced graphics common in virtual reality games.
The headset, which looks like ski goggles, isn’t expected to ship until next year due to battery power and performance challenges, said two people familiar with the project.
Its success is far from guaranteed. Facebook’s parent company Meta is struggling to extend the appeal of its Quest virtual reality headset beyond avid video game players. Last year, it surpassed sales of about 10 million units, a small fraction of the 240 million iPhones shipped by Apple, analysts say.
Apple is struggling to convince developers to embrace its vision of a mixed reality world. In 2017, it introduced ARKit to allow developers to use the iPhone’s camera and motion sensor to combine the digital and real world. But about 70 percent of Apple developers said they didn’t use the tool, according to a survey of more than 500 developers by Creative Strategies, a technology research firm.