If you are me (which be honest, you are) you have heard a lot of news recently regarding the September 9th Apple press conference.
Well, now that it is passed that date I figured it was time for me to give my take. Despite not seeing the press conference live (I'll touch on this shortly), and not having hands on with any kinds of devices (which lot's of press seem pretty similar for one announced device), I feel I am adequately skilled and knowledgeable to give total judgement on everything that happened.
Before we start I feel like I have to point something out - I was fully prepared to watch the live stream that Apple released of this event. The reason I didn't is because Apple made the stream only available to Apple devices!
I didn't watch because Apple wouldn't let me. I kind of thought that was the most Apple thing ever, but there were even more Apple-y things to come.
Another general point - I don't think it is only the loss of Steve Jobs that has hurt Apple and these product releases. Yes he might have insisted on more innovation and better products, but in general Apple has been in catch up mode for years. Sure, it might have started by other companies copying them, but because of the level of competition in the market other products have evolved and innovated faster than Apple. Sure, they have their locked in market of die-hard fans, but the rest of the markets is pretty great and has good devices and ideas too.
In saying that, I was excited about some of the rumours before this press conference as when Apple starts using an idea it helps it throughout the market (which I want to happen for digital payments, fitness trackers, and wearables).
Lots of leaks also kind of take away excitement for these events.
Anyway, on to the major announcements:
The start of every Apple press conference generally touches on product sales numbers, markets share, and general all around look how financially awesome we are talk. This time it didn't. My two theories on this are:
- Pacing. They really wanted to get to the watch announcement so they didn't want to waste time on numbers.
- They aren't doing that amazingly. Maybe this is my sceptical auditor side, but when they didn't talk numbers I assumed it was because they are losing market share all over the show and their sales aren't as good as they should be. Why signal the market early when you can wait to Q3 results and hope new iPhone sales have righted the ship?
Either way instead of numbers they played a weird video that focused on how innovative and different Apple is (which it really isn't any more). It was really, really Apple. If you had to ask people who don’t like Apple why they don’t, they would probably point to that video for 80% of their answer.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
And just like all the leaks pointed to Apple again announced two phones - both of them with bigger screens than their previous phones.
The smaller phone has a 4.7 inch screen (I think this is still a little smaller than a phone should be to be great), and the bigger has a 5.5 inch screen - so it is a Samsung Galaxy Note.
The two phones do look very nice though - very iPod Touch 5th Generation, which you can take however you like.
As per usual the phones are mainly glass and aluminum (so will feel very good), but they aren’t sapphire (as some had rumoured), which makes sense because that would have been horribly expensive. In saying that, these phones will range from $199 to $399 on a two year contract - so not exactly in an affordable range (as a comparison the Nexus 5 was $350 without a contract when it launched).
The phones are also really thin. Thinner than the last iPhones. I guess that is nice, but really there was nothing wrong with leaving them a few millimeters thicker when it could have added extra battery life. Instead battery figures look largely the same as the last iPhones.
The cameras are also improved, and there was a lot of talk about the 6 Plus having Optical Image Stabilisation. Sure, that is a great feature, but it has been on a lot of other phones for a while now.
I do like that the cameras do video in slow motion, but the bigger problem is that cell phone videos are almost always unwatchable no matter what - people just aren’t good at them. Plus, they will always get shot in portrait, so screw those people.
They also pushed a new feature they will have (on some carriers) - WiFi calling!
Which isn’t a new thing at all. I don’t see why they were talking about this as a new feature when you can make calls over wifi with the Facebook app, of with Google Hangouts, or with Skype, or with Whatsapp or lots of other apps already.
The two cool things about the new phones were:
- Continued improvements in the M chip (which was already in the last iPhone). It is nice to have dedicated hardware for tracking movement and things like that in the phone. I hope this does continue to spread in the industry and we get wide improvements in fitness trackers, and phones acting as fitness trackers by themselves. In saying that, one feature they talked about a lot was the ability to track elevation because there was a built in barometer… which has already been in other phones for a while now
- The inclusion of NFC and use for mobile payments. Now, NFC has been in android phones since the beginning, and they have had the ability to be used as tap to pay devices for some time as well. But because of Apples partnerships, this should hopefully help make this a more common thing, which is great. The current problem is that it is super weird to use your phone to pay for something, maybe if lots more phones can do it, it might be less weird.
Really, there was nothing new or exciting with the new iPhones. Sure, they are bigger and will be better than the previous iPhones, but there was nothing groundbreaking.
Another lackluster announcement. Again, probably because they were trying to get to the watch as fast as possible.
The features I picked up on were that apps on the phone can now talk and pass data to each other (which Android apps have been doing for a long time), and that messaging now has the ability to send quick voice notes to people (which is the worst thing ever - who likes getting voice mail?)
The surprising thing about the Apple Watch announcement was that there were multiple versions of the watch. I did later find out that this had been rumoured and posted around the place, I just missed it completely.
Anyway, Apple announced a watch that will be available early 2015 (how early?). There are several varieties of the watch, but they all basically look the same:
Don’t let the straps fool you, it is the same basic design in all three images.
The good side of the watch is that it seems like it is probably not too big. The problem with all current smartwatches (and most normal watches too) is that they are too bulky.
Well, actually the problem with all watches is that what people think looks good/bad is too wide of a range. It is impossible to design a watch to suit everyone or that everyone will like. By adding a few sizes, colours and straps Apple will likely cater to a larger audience than most have managed so far.
Everything else about the watch is really hard to talk about because even in the hands on demos that people got, they weren’t actually able to use the software - they were just touching the hardware.
Though it looked easy enough to use and navigate things on the watch, it is probably just as easy/hard as it is on any other smartwatch (which isn’t a good thing). I really expected Apple would do something to solve the small screen interface problem, but it really doesn’t look like they have.
The best feature of the watch is the sensors included (all normal movement sensors, and heart rate monitoring too), and the inbuilt fitness and workout apps. I do find it a bit weird that Apple would release their own fitness tracking app on their phone, given how close they are with Nike and the fact this kind of hurts the Nike+ apps. But, the apps look great, and as they will be across both your watch and phone it should all for a lot of data and personal quantification to happen (which presumably is what you are looking for). I think they are quite cool, and really hope other companies get better in this way.
The worst thing about the watch is the second button (I didn’t talk about it, but they have a dial on the side as the main button - it isn’t all that interesting - and a second flat button below it). From what we have seen this button has one function - opening up a small messaging app that only works between Apple watches. Now, these messages aren’t real messages, they are just whatever you can scribble on the watch face. Or, you can send your pulse to someone else!
Yes, you read that right, you can push a button and side your heart beat to someone elses watch where it will vibrate in time.
WHAT A KILLER FEATURE!!!!
Otherwise everything is the same as other smartwatches - without your phone around it cant really do anything.
It will cost at least $349.
Now that has sunken in I will just say you are paying $349 for a sweet fitness tracker (that will only get GPS if your phone is around).
So much for saving and innovating the smartwatch market.
U2 played. That is so Apple.
When was the last time U2 was good or bearable? Was it never? I feel like it was never. Man, I hate Bono.
I didn’t intend this to come across as really anti-Apple, and I am not sure it did, but I know I came away from the announcements thinking there were two interesting things:
- Apple will hopefully be making phone/touch-to-pay a more common thing, which is good for them, and good for all other phones that have had this technology for years. I really want this to become a thing.
- The inbuilt fitness tracking in both the iPhone and Apple Watch are really top notch looking. I hope this encourages other hardware manufactures to build more of this into their devices, and to open up APIs to developers for them.
So, should you buy the new iPhone? I mean, if you already own an iPhone and need to upgrade… sure, I guess. I know I would wait until next month (or early November) when Google will hopefully release their next Nexus phone. Whether it is better or not, it will be worth checking out before buying one of these.
But, if you are already fully in the Apple environment and are never going to change… well, why did you both reading this part, you are buying it.
And as for buying the Apple Watch? It doesn’t release for maybe 6 months (depending on what early means). They didn’t mention ANYTHING about battery life (which for a watch is pretty important). A lot of other watches will probably be released between now and then, so I would keep watching the market. I imagine there will be better (and cheaper) options out there. But who knows.
Wow, that really wasn’t like the old Apple announcements. I blame Steve Jobs, Google, Samsung, and product leaks.
What do you think? Are you going to buy these products? Do you care about it at all? Any thoughts on anything related at all?