ICYMI: the 8 biggest tech stories of the week, from iPhone 15 to iRobot Roombas
Even if you’ve been stranded on a Pacific island for the last week, you probably still heard that a new iPhone was launched on Tuesday – or four new iPhones, to be precise. Yes, the new iPhone 15 series arrived to cheering crowds enthusiastically swinging their USB-C cables, as Apple has finally adopted the port on its latest phones.
But if you didn’t quite catch the minutiae of Apple’s September event, or the other stories that bravely attempted to pierce through the iNoise this week, we’ve got you covered in our ICYMI (or ‘in case you missed it’) roundup.
Here, in reverse order, are all of the week’s biggest announcements, rumors and notable tech happenings – and there were a lot of those, including weird foldable PCs, about 17 new cameras and, yes, a lengthy cast of new Apple arrivals…
8. HP revealed its eye-wateringly expensive foldable PC
HP is well-known for its high-quality 2-in-1 laptops, PCs, and tablets. And with this week’s reveal of the HP Spectre Foldable PC, it seems to aim to cover all three markets.
This 3-in-1 device can become a laptop, tablet, or desktop PC depending on how it’s folded up or detached. Though the default mode is a 17-inch, 0.33-inch (8.5 mm) thick OLED tablet, you can attach the included Bluetooth keyboard and use the built-in kickstand to turn it into a laptop or desktop PC. It also comes with a wireless stylus which, combined with the included keyboard and kickstand, is a better deal than most other similar hybrid devices.
However, all of that comes at a massive cost, as you’ll have to prepare to spend $5,000 / £4,999 (around AU$7,753) to get your hands on one. So as interesting as the Spectre Foldable looks, it might remain a niche curio for a while.
- Read more: HP’s $5,000 Spectre Foldable PC is eye-wateringly expensive but is it worth it?
7. It rained new cameras from Fujifilm, Panasonic, OM System and Blackmagic
Away from the iPhone 15 spotlight, there were plenty of superb new cameras to get excited about. At the Fujifilm X Summit in Stockholm, the GFX100 II was unveiled as the most powerful camera ever in its class, finally making medium-format feel as fast as full-frame.
We also had a great time on a wildlife reserve photographing exotic animals during our hands-on Panasonic Lumix G9 II review; this is the company’s latest flagship micro four thirds mirrorless for photographers, and we were impressed. The tough compact camera lives on, too, with the new OM System Tough TG-7 a sure bet to replace the TG-6 as the best waterproof camera to take on outdoorsy adventures, even if it’s a super modest update.
Lastly, Blackmagic surprised us all by launching its first full-frame 6K video camera, at a super competitive price. This week will go down as one of the busiest this year in the camera world… until next week at least.
- Read more: Hands on: Fujifilm GFX100 II review: it’s medium format, but faster
6. iRobot’s new Roomba vacuums arrived with mildly terrifying smarts
Maybe it isn’t AI we should be worried about, but robot vacuums. This week iRobot revealed its new Roomba j9+ and Roomba Combo j9+ contenders which, alongside Robot OS 7, promise to be its smartest yet.
With their real-time navigation and object recognition, these vacs should be better at picking up debris and avoiding obstructions like socks and pet waste. Unlike most rivals, which store their mops underneath the robot, the Combo j9+ brings its mop down from a storage spot on top of the robot, which greatly reduces the risk that a dirty mop will catch on your carpet – which can happen with the other designs.
Mopping is also getting an upgrade on both vacuums, too; when Robot OS 7 launches, the Combo j9+ and Combo j7+ will gain the ability to scrub your floors so they’re better at removing tougher patches of dirt and grime.
- Read more: iRobot’s new Roomba might fix some of the biggest issues with robot vacuums
5. The Samsung Galaxy Ring edged a little bit closer
Smart rings are slowly becoming the next big thing in wearables – and right on cue, Samsung’s new contender is seemingly about to join the fray. A recent leak suggested the long-awaited Samsung Galaxy Ring could land in January, and this week yet more evidence of the little health tracker was spotted in a Samsung app.
Okay, we’re not yet at the stage of leaked product images or specs. But the uncovering of a smart ring icon within the files of the official Galaxy Wearable app does suggest that the Oura Ring should start to shuffle a little more uncomfortably in its chair.
- Read more: The clearest sign yet of a Samsung Galaxy Ring has been spotted in a Samsung app
4. Apple’s AirPods and EarPods joined the USB-C party
They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but it looks like USB-C does. This week, Apple announced that not only are the AirPods Pro 2 getting updated with a USB-C charging case, but that the original EarPods would also be getting the port.
The news was revealed at the Apple September event, but you’d be forgiven for missing it if you were watching the keynote, as it was a very brief mention. Aside from USB-C, there were a couple of small additional updates coming to the AirPods Pro 2, including reverse charging from an iPhone and improved dust resistance.
You won’t have to fork out extra for those features, either. Both the AirPods Pro 2 and EarPods will still cost the same of $249 / £229 / AU$399 and $19 / £19 / AU$29, respectively. Whether we’ll see the rest of the AirPods range get the USB-C treatment is still not confirmed, but rumors suggest that this might happen next year.
- Read more: AirPods Pro 2 and EarPods with USB-C connections are official at last
3. The iPhone 15 Pro Max delivered Apple’s most powerful camera ever
Guess what, Apple just invented a 5x optical zoom for smartphones! Okay, Samsung, Google, Huawei, Oppo and more did it years ago, but the iPhone 15 Pro Max is the first iPhone to venture past 3x optical zoom. And despite the feature’s belated arrival, that is a pretty big deal for iOS fans.
That ‘tetraprism’ lens wasn’t the only photographic upgrade that Apple showed off at its iPhone 15 event this week. Its flagship model also gained a larger sensor for its main 24mm camera, the ability to shoot 48MP HEIF files, a range of new ‘virtual’ lenses (which are handy crops from that main camera) and a USB-3 port for speedy file transfers.
So far, our hands-on iPhone 15 Pro Max review is pretty glowing, stating that “it could be the most powerful smartphone on the market, while also being the most useful and fun”. Does anyone have a spare $1,199 / £1,399 / AU$2,099?
- Read more: iPhone 15 Pro Max camera: 7 big upgrades that could make it the new camera king
2. The Apple Watch 9 brought impressive ‘double tap’ gestures
Apple didn’t redesign its popular wearable, but the Apple Watch Series 9 doesn’t necessarily disappoint in the new capabilities department thanks to an intriguing and “just works” new feature called Double Tap.
No, you’re not tapping the watch screen. Instead, as we experienced it, you just put on the watch, raise your hand, and then double tap your index finger and thumb to access multiple watch features. It’s an almost “magical” new feature enabled by the watch’s sensors and the new S9 processor. Color us impressed.
- Read more: I tried Apple Watch Series 9 Double Tap and was blown away
1. The iPhone 15 actually got USB-C (with asterisks)
The biggest news event of the week was Apple’s launch of the iPhone 15 series of smartphones – and particular attention was paid to the inclusion of a USB-C port, rather than Apple’s proprietary Lightning port.
While this move was initially warmly received – as it means you can use USB-C chargers from other devices, such as Android phones and laptops, to top up your iPhone 15’s battery – as more details emerged, that warm reception quickly changed to bafflement and even anger.
The problem was that while Apple has included the modern USB-C port on the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus, the tech behind the port was limited to USB 2.0 – a standard that’s more than 20 years old and which offers pitiful data transfer speeds compared to the latest USB 4 technology.
Apple’s choice to use USB 2.0 feels even more outdated, as around the same time as the launch of the iPhone 15, Intel unveiled specifications for Thunderbolt 5 – its latest tech that uses the USB-C interface.
According to Intel, Thunderbolt 5 will have a potential max speed of 120Gbps, which puts the 480Mbps data speeds of the iPhone 15’s USB-C port to shame. For people wanting a smartphone that can quickly move large files, such as photos and videos, to and from their PC, then sadly, it seems the iPhone 15 won’t be for you.
- Read more: 15 things we learned at Apple’s September 2023 event