Despite the leaks, excitement filled shinobi HQ last night as (armed with pizza and beer) we gathered round the TV to watch Apple’s September event.
After a moving tribute to the late Steve Jobs in showing us Apple’s new HQ, Tim Cook got straight down to business. As always, a lot was packed into the 2 hours, including the revamp of the retail stores, the new Apple TV, heart study and Watch series 3. The latter particularly interested me and brought back fond childhood memories of watching David Hasselhoff speak to his car with his watch in the ‘KnightRider’ series.
Healthy Market Share
The improvements to the Apple Watch 3 clearly demonstrates Apple’s continued focus on health. Whilst compatibility with connected treadmills seems natural progression I was surprised by the focus on heart monitoring and the undertaking of a heart study. It would seem Apple sees more potential in its wearable than just fitness; the Apple Watch could give early warning of health complications thus appealing to a market beyond fitness enthusiasts.
What most (including us) were really waiting for however was news of the new iPhone line up. The first surprise was the naming – no mention of ‘7s’ but instead, 8. At first glance the 8 looked very similar to its predecessor albeit with a new glass back. I was pleased to see the addition of wireless charging to what seems otherwise an incremental ’S’ style upgrade. Perhaps 8 was chosen rather than 7s due to the adoption of a new chassis. I was not surprised to see the abandonment of the jet black option – I don’t doubt Apple faced a lot of backlash from the micro-abrasion saga.
Keeping it Real
I was impressed by the live on-stage augmented reality demo by Alti Mar. I do hope the introduction of this capability in iPhones will accelerate AR’s adoption into mainstream. I believe gaming will be the most popular, revenue generating use case for AR but looking further ahead it presents many opportunities in spaces such as accessibility, e-commerce and design.
A Perfect 10?
The hugely anticipated (and leaked) ‘iPhone X’ took centre stage to great applause from the crowd. As expected it boasted a completely new design with an almost edge to edge display and no home button. Craig Federighi recovered well from an initial failed demo of ‘Face ID’ and set about showing us what this new machine could do.
I had mixed views on the look of the X. Whilst it’s a bold advance which was necessary to keep with trend, I felt sad to see the loss of the iconic design; It no longer looks like an iPhone. Having recently looked at a Galaxy S8 I felt that Samsung had made a better job of the display. The lack of left and right bezels and ‘ears’ at the top seem so much nicer. That said, the dialog I saw on the display model reading ‘Bixby voice has stopped’ did not fill me with confidence!
Facing the Challenge
Face recognition to me felt like a workaround to Apple’s inability to incorporate a reliable fingerprint scanner into a display. It remains to be seen how reliable Face ID is but I can see a minefield of privacy and reliability issues ensuing. In particular I can see problems arising for those who cover their face (for religious reasons for example) or questions arising with regard to how easily law enforcement officials can access a confiscated iPhone.
A Bridge Too Far?
My biggest issue overall was the price. $999 is an astronomical price for a phone. The X is a good deal more expensive than the S8 and already, certainly in the UK consumer behaviour is moving toward less frequent phone upgrading. Subsequently I doubt we will see the buying frenzy at Apple stores that we’ve seen in the past. Apple cater for lower budgets by retaining the excellent SE and the 6s but I still feel iPhone sales will stagnate. Whilst the X will of course be favoured by the elite, it may be out of reach to the regular consumer. This only leaves the 8 which may appeal to owners of pre-6s models looking to upgrade, but is unlikely to entice those with newer handsets.
In summary I feel Apple’s new products are as always impressive but I feel their pricing is too high. The new models should help wireless charging become the norm and we should start seeing more charging points in public places. Face ID will see some challenges but in time the rest of the industry will undoubtedly follow this trend. We should hopefully see more developers demonstrate their flair with AR apps which should bring a wealth of benefits to everyday life.