Apple’s March Special Event – Still Some Surprises
After whetting our appetites recently with the quirky promise to ‘loop us in’, Apple finally delivered last week with its March special event. Opinion in shinobcontrols‘ HQ was split. My colleague Matthew Jones was heavily critical, citing a lack of innovation, whereas I was a little more optimistic. Let’s take a brief look at what they had to say!
Bucking the trend – the return of the 4 inch form factor
Due to what seems like a never-ending stream of leaks and rumors I think there was no surprise when Greg Joswiak announced ‘SE’ as the name for the new 4 inch iPhone. At first I was a little underwhelmed by the similarities of the SE to the 5s – I think I was not alone in expecting a smaller clone of the iPhone 6. Apple clearly have a plan with this phone. Whilst many manufacturers nowadays offer low specs in their smaller offerings, Apple’s newest family member certainly packs a punch. My view is that Apple is aiming to get new users onto its ecosystem – the inclusion of Apple Pay support highlights this. Also by sharing many components with the 5s, manufacturing costs are reduced – allowing Apple to offer a price point more palatable to emerging markets, such as India and China.
Still the good guy
I was interested to see a section of the keynote dedicated to the promotion of Apple’s good ethics. Apple, like many major players in the tech world have not been immune to some bad press regarding issues like the conditions in which its employees work, and how they source their materials. Apple was clearly addressing the general trend toward ‘green’ practices – illustrated quite nicely with our introduction to Liam – possibly the world’s most ethical robot!
Continued focus on health
Having personally felt a little underwhelmed at the introduction of Health Kit last year, I was pleasantly surprised to see a renewed focus on health. It is fairly clear that Apple recognizes the potential market in the health sector and is making strong inroads as such. Whilst the consumer market seems squarely focused on personal health and fitness apps, Apple once again seems one step ahead with its focus on improving patient care. It appears to be taking the proven approach of achieving this by getting the right data to the right people. Sitting on this side of the pond I still think we will have a long wait before we have our Doctor as one of our FaceTime favorites – for those in the US however this may not be such an outlandish thought!
iOS 9.3 – empowering users with less sleepless nights!
The keynote finally saw the widely anticipated release of iOS 9.3. I was pleased to see that Apple seem to have addressed the issues many have seen in the past and have upscaled capacity on the update servers. Updating to iOS 9.3 seemed a trivial affair by comparison to those previous.
What really stood out for me was the Night Shift feature and the addition of security to the Notes application. I feel Apple have done this to bolster their ‘good guy’ image (see above). They want users to feel comfortable and secure using their products, although I’m sure I read somewhere that most purchases made from mobile devices occur in the evening! Maybe apple have a hidden agenda here 🙂
No Air 3
Can you believe it has already been 6 months since the launch of the 12.9 inch iPad Pro. Where does the time go?
The biggest surprise of the day for me was the naming applied to the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro. I truly expected to see the term ‘Air 3’ splashed over the huge display behind Phil Schiller. I’m not convinced this naming decision is a sound one for several reasons – it blurs the ‘Air’ product line’s association with being a light, portable device and it stands in the limelight of the flagship 12.9 inch model. That said, several details stood out from the launch: Apple are clearly targeting the education and business sectors with this device. With larger storage options, support for Ethernet and powered USB devices, along with testimonials from big names such as Pixar and Citi – this was fairly evident. Design – rather than relying on headline specs to sell products I believe Apple clearly wishes to maintain a good user experience. For me, improvements to the display with innovations such as True-Tone and reduced glare, alongside software innovations such as the ability to ignore a user’s forearm resting on the screen clearly illustrate this. Apple has always taken pride in making its products a pleasure to use and last week’s announcement showed continued focus in this area.
In summary, the keynote was a mixed bag of hardware and software announcements, some anticipated and some a complete surprise. It shows us that Apple recognize the impact that strong competition is having on the market place which they once dominated. They are fishing for new customers via lower price points and seek to retain them via a good user experience. Design is still important in terms of fashion and the perception of ‘premium’ in their product lines. At the other end of the scale, Apple have the business, education and healthcare sectors clearly in their sights. While doing all of this, Apple wants to be seen as the ethical good guy. It continues to be an exciting time for the mobile technology sector and I am personally eager to see what Apple’s competitors’ next move will be.