Apple have, in characteristic style, launched some new products to much fanfare and a generous amount of online commentary. As usual, we find a mix of Apple fans lauding the latest products, Apple haters trying to find flaws in the new offerings and the rest of us, trying to decide how much we care. Personally, […]
Apple have, in characteristic style, launched some new products to much fanfare and a generous amount of online commentary. As usual, we find a mix of Apple fans lauding the latest products, Apple haters trying to find flaws in the new offerings and the rest of us, trying to decide how much we care.
Personally, I feel like there is a lot to be intrigued, if not downright excited about. I felt the last World Wide Developers Conference was the most forward-thinking presentation Apple had staged in years, with a clear roadmap for where the software is going (here’s my summary of the highlights from the last WWDC). And, this week’s showcase is in my view, the most exciting since Apple launched the iPhone and potentially, this will shift Apple’s business as much as the move into mobile devices did.
Apple Watch – Apple At Its Best
The idea of a smart watch is not new. But no one has really done it well yet, or managed to integrate it thoroughly into our existing digital lives. This the kind of problem Apple solve more effectively than anyone else. This is Apple’s genius.
The Apple Watch looks good and does everything smart watch hopefuls want. More importantly, it shows Apple are trying to understand what a watch is and how it functions, not just as a potential vehicle for their software but as a cultural object.
I remember hearing someone say a watch was an outdated idea, because it is a single function device. However, anyone who thinks I only wear a watch to tell the time clearly doesn’t understand the world of watches. Apple’s head of design, Jony Ive, in his earnestly restrained introduction to the Apple Watch, talks about how Apple worked with Horologists (watch experts) to understand watches from not just a design and technology perspective, but as cultural objects.
Apple Watch could well be every bit as important as the iPod and iPhone. This isn’t just about putting a computer on your wrist. Apple watch puts a lot of existing, but under-utilised technologies, from health and fitness monitoring, haptic feedback and proximity based sharing and puts them in a neat, well designed package.
Apple’s new iPhones are larger, quite a bit larger, which might not sit well with all mobile phone users. For me personally, the current iPhone 5S is already bigger than what I would like to be carrying and I’ve heard the same from other users as well.
Of the new features, I am a little intrigued by the new camera (8MP) and the move to phase detection focus, which may well make the camera easier to use when shooting video. But, the camera has never been a sufficient reason to update iPhones in the past and won’t be this time either.
pple Pay – The Real Big Story
While Apple Watch and the new iPhones are attracting everyone’s attention, the big story is perhaps being missed – Apple Pay. This is Apple’s foray into touch and go digital payments. In theory you will be able to use devices like Apple Watch and iPhone to pay anywhere debit and credit cards are accepted. The technology, from banks and in stores, is already in place in many countries. But, again, no-one has really integrated it in an easy to use way, into a digital device.
If Apple Pay works and is reliable (and safe from hackers) then the potential rewards for Apple are huge. This will move Apple into the Banking and Retail world in the same way iTunes moved Apple into the Music and Film industry and iPhone moved Apple into the centre of the Mobile Communications business.
Earlier this year, Apple highlighted the way intra-device continuity will feature in the next generation of software. You’ll be able to answer iPhone calls on your computer, start a document on one device then hand it off seamlessly to another. This is Apple trying to really bring the idea of Cloud Computing to life. You simply do your work with whatever device is at hand.
But, tasks that depend on a phone will still need you to have an iPhone nearby. It’a bulky compromise when one thinks of how big the new iPhone is. One wonders if the logical step for Apple is to produce an iPhone Nano, a really small iPhone that largely serves as a mobile router for use with Apple Watch, iPad, or Macbook Pro.
Or maybe one day, the categories the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch categories will one day disappear and we will just have the same kind of device, in a range of sizes (from four inches to 12 inches), with similar capabilities, so you just pick the size that suits your needs?
Music – The Afterthought In It All
I had hoped that, hidden in the announcements, might be further improvements to iTunes. After buying Beats and bringing Jimmy Iovine onboard, I had hoped Apple would revamp its tired looking iTunes beyond just cosmetic improvements and the long overdue ability to share your library with your family. While the iTunes store has gone through subtle changes (like Mastered for iTunes music and iTunes Extras for films), the experience of using iTunes in iOS or worse, in OSX is a distinctly frustrating one.
We didn’t get any iTunes news and instead, we got U2 playing a four minute ode to their musical heroes, including Joey Ramone (the irony in that is almost too much). Apparently the song and the album it comes from are now available for all iTunes user to download for free. Musicians everywhere will be wondering what this means for their future.