Yesterday Apple unveiled not only their latest iteration of phones but also a smartwatch. I can't say that I'm impressed with the phones, the watch, the whole pomp and ceremony, or Apple's live-streaming capabilities.
First of all, the new iPhone(s): Don't they look just like the Samsung Galaxy? There was a point in yesterday's event where Jonathon 'Jony' Ive said via one of those videos where the person is speaking to someone just over your shoulder,
"I'm honored to be the one to tell you about the new iPhones. Their design is like nothing ever before. Incredibly unique. The glass front, the curves around the side with the aluminum back."
Uh-huh. So a glass front… curved sides… metallic back… isn't that every other smartphone on the market except the previous iPhones? What's "incredibly unique" about copying the designs of more popular phones? How is that in any way "like nothing ever before"?
In my opinion, hot air.
Commentators have been hoping with each successive iPhone launch that maybe this one will be the device where Apple adopt the NFC standard for contactless, mobile payments. It's been in other phones for a few years now but hasn't really taken off, and it's been suggested that if Apple adopted it then it would start to gain traction. Well, Apple have finally adopted NFC for payments… but with their own darn standard laid on top of it. Not only that, but a payment mechanism which will only work in the US. So they expect shops to - presumably - buy the device that sits on the counter and which will work with only Apple's phones? And will shops then have to buy another device to work with the other phones - the phones which make up the majority of the smartphone market?
There isn't really any other big, amazing news about the new phones other than that they're both examples of Apple once again giving in to consumer demand and following the money rather than creating the demand. And they still have an outdated, icon-heavy user interface. There's nothing about either of those phones that makes me want one, and I most certainly would not shell out hundreds of pounds more than a competitor device costs to own one.
Oh, there is one new feature to iOS 8: you can turn the phone to landscape and, through some button-pushing, have two things (apps?) on the screen simultaneously, an idea that works well on Windows, where they got it from.
As succinctly as I can put it, I just don't see the point. Why is it so much easier to use a tiny screen on one's wrist by means of a tiny turning dial digital crown (like old BlackBerry devices) on the side to navigate through the interface instead of using a device which fits into one's hand and can be used either single-handed or two-handed? Why the great need to squeeze it all into something on the back of my wrist?
Anyway, personal scepticism aside, I noticed that Apple are finally allowing the personality aspect into the design. They've insisted that all their gadgets look identical so that they can be instantly recognised as Apple devices but when it comes to a wearable they've realised that they have to implement colour and less uniform design. Which also means they'll be able to charge a fortune for new straps - they're making available an 18ct gold version called The Apple Watch Edition? There's also going to be a ProductRED edition - you know, Bono's charity?
It has some great features on it, though. Here's two of my favourites.
- You can send your heartbeat, in real-time, to a friend.
This is so that you can… I… I dunno… I really don't know why you'd want to send your heartbeat in real-time to a friend.
- On the side, next to the digital crown is something called the digital touch which allows you to draw little doodles like this on the screen and send them… to your friends. Again, I'm lost for a purpose to this glorified button.
Image shamelessly lifted from Engadget's live blog
Important at this point in time is what we don't know about the watch:
- how long will the battery last (Tim 'regulation haircut' Cook alluded to charging it through the night, which implies that it only lasts a day)?
- do the apps run on the device or on the required, partnering iPhone 6 (yes, owners of the Apple Watch must have an iPhone 6 in their pocket)?
- what sort of processor is in the watch and what level of application can it run?
- what's the point?
Oh, also, speaking of charging: yeah, you're going to need a new charger because it uses neither the industry-standard micro-USB nor the same one that any other Apple devices use. They're good at that, Apple.
They did announce a couple of apps that the phone can be used with. Of course there was the usual Facebook stuff, and then one from BMW where your phone will tell you where you parked your car. One wonders if Apple would also have accommodated, say Vauxhall/Opal or Peugot. I doubt it; I think Apple expect you to have a status symbol car. Don't worry though, there are apps you can already get on phones which will guide you back to your car, regardless of your its value.
They also made repeated mention of how well it keeps time.
Apple get a lot of praise for announcing devices and then saying "You can order it…" well, a few years ago it used to be immediately, or the following day. Then it moved back to "…on Friday" or "…on Monday". The new iPhones will be available in 10 days, but the watch isn't going to be available until early 2015.
Yep, next year.
So why tell us about it now?
But regardless of when it's available, remember that it's just an accessory - a $349 accessory to your phone.
The Pomp and Ceremony
And lastly, the launch event itself. Jeez leweez. Sickening, adult materialism worship at its very ugliest. As soon as pictures of the watch were revealed you were apparently unable to hear anything else in the hall, such was the volume of the whooping and hollering. It seems that people are no longer prepared to hear about something before judging how great it is.
Image shamelessly lifted from Engadget's live blog
I have this theory about how Apple are unable to make any of their online services successful. They're great with hardware but they just don't seem to get web stuff done properly. I say this because I settled down last night to watch the event on my laptop, only to find that Apple were only willing to let you watch it if you'd paid for one of their computers which was running the latest version of their operating system. [My laptop does, but I refuse to use it in such a manner.] You'd think they'd want as many people as possible to be excited about their new products. Anyway, I closed my laptop and used my girlfriend's iPad, only to find that the page took an eon to load, and when it did, the video wouldn't start. About 5 minutes later the video started and I realised that the footage I was watching was from prior to the event starting (despite this now being 10 minutes in). I eventually found a button to make it live and… well, long story short, I was unable to watch it. What 3 or 4-second fragments of it I did see had what sounded like Japanese interpretation over the top.
Having looked into it this morning, this was the case for everyone. Nobody could stream the event live. I even tried about 90 minutes later and it was the same, so it wasn't that their servers were over-burdened. According to an authoritative report, "Apple simply didn’t provision and plan for the event properly."
Or maybe we were all just holding our iPads wrongly, eh Steve?
Consider this: there was much hoo-ha 2 or 3 weeks ago about Apple tag-teaming with IBM to offer better services to enterprise. You'd have thought - as did many of their shareholders - that yesterday would have been the ideal opportunity to perhaps show off how the new iPhone will offer great enterprise capability, particularly in the wake of recent security gaffs (and if there's one thing that'll put enterprise right off your services…) but no, absolutely no mention of IBM or the word "enterprise". And maybe that's for the best. After all, a huge aspect in the future of IT in the enterprise is cloud services, and Apple's complete failure to stream their biggest moment of the year shows that, even brushing aside security concerns, they're nowhere near ready to provide enterprise-grade cloud services.
But any company which has U2 playing at the launch and then announcing that their new album will be available for free through that company's shop must be awesome.