The Apple Special Event livestream, better known as “Christmas for geeks”, has concluded. It’s time to clean up the wrapping paper strewn about, count our haul, and start saving up now for the 2015 launch of the Apple Watch.
Can you hear me now?
Things got off to a very rocky start for people streaming at home. The livestream at Apple.com and through the Apple TV crashed several times, causing most people to miss the new iPhone unveiling. At one point, it crashed so hard the website went down, and I personally had to reboot my Apple TV, as the whole thing went unresponsive. When the stream was up, it was very hard to hear Tim Cook over the talking of the Chinese interpreter whose mic was somehow feeding into the livestream. Both these issues were eventually fixed, but it made for a frustrating and distracting experience. Most people expect some sort of technical difficulties with a live product demo, but Apple has established its reputation as the #flawless Beyonce of tech companies. The extent and length of these technical issues was downright embarrassing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the production folks are updating their resumes tonight. Luckily, liveblogs from journalists in attendance were able to fill in the gaps when the stream went down.
Apparently size does matter
The rumors and leaks that have been swirling for weeks were confirmed when Apple unveiled two differently sized iPhones: a 4.7” iPhone 6, and a 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus. I have tiny lady hands, so I’m not too thrilled over this trend of larger size phones. 4” or 4.3” is comfortable in my hand, 4.7” is okay, and 5.5” might as well be a tablet. However, I know a lot of people who have gone with Android over Apple for the larger screen size, so this will probably help them capture a bit more market share. The screens are also a higher resolution “Retina HD” display, with the 6 Plus offering 1080p. Again, this will help capture users who value top of the line tech specs over the other benefits of the phone.
Aside from the display, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have an expected bump in specs, with an A8 processor, faster LTE and wi-fi speeds as well as VoLTE technology, and a faster graphics and motion processor. The camera is holding steady at 8 MP, but has faster autofocus processing and digital image stabilization, for clearer and sharper photos. The only significant change in specs Apple made today was eliminating the 32 GB capacity in favor of a 128 GB model. This didn’t change their pricing structure of $199/$299/$399, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just eliminate the 16 GB model and make 32 GB the base.
Shut up and take my money
Most of the new software features of iOS 8, such as Health Kit and Handoff, were already announced at WWDC back in June, so there weren’t many surprises there. However, the big feature announced today, Apple Pay, is dependent on the new NFC hardware in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple Pay allows you to add your credit and debit cards to Passbook, allowing you to tap your phone (and your fingerprint on Touch ID) to pay at supported retailers. According to Apple, your credit card number is not stored on your phone or passed to retailers; instead, a unique account number and security code is generated for each transaction. If your phone is lost or stolen, you can also cut off its payment capabilities from Find My iPhone, without needing to wipe the phone. Despite all this, I’m still a little concerned about the security of this system. Although, as Chaz pointed out to me, credit card and point of sale systems are breached on a regular basis lately, so it’s not like a physical card is any more secure. Because it requires NFC, Apple Pay is not supported on any older iPhone models, so it looks like me and my 5s will be slummin’ it with plastic for a few more years.
One more thing…
By far, the most anticipated announcement from Apple’s event today was the rumored iWatch. There weren’t nearly as many leaked pictures and parts, so pretty much the only thing we knew going into it was that Apple would have some form of wearable device. Aside from it being called the Apple Watch instead of the iWatch, they did not disappoint. Much like NFC mobile payments, Apple is not the first one to the smart watch market, but they clearly hope to be the best. Apple recognized that the biggest challenge to current smartphones is the interface, as trying to use multitouch gestures on a tiny watch face just doesn’t work. Instead, the Apple watch is controlled by tapping or pressing on the screen, a dial on the side, and a single button. The watch also has two different physical sizes, which I’m excited for (see: previous comment on tiny lady hands).
Aside from the interface, Apple Watch appears to work like most other smart watches, allowing you to control music and receive notifications from your phone. Using dictation, it looks like you’ll be able to respond to texts from the watch. It’ll be interesting to see if those responses are transcribed, or sent as an audio iMessage. You can also respond using new (and in my opinion, mildly creepy) 3D emoji. Third party apps like Facebook and Twitter can be used on the Apple Watch, both for viewing notifications and browsing/posting actual content. Finally, Apple Watch can communicate device to device, allowing you to send little doodles, taps, or even your heartbeat to another person’s watch. It seems kinda cool, but also a little gimmicky. I think we’ll have to wait until people have the product in their hand to see how that one plays out.
The watch also ties in closely with the new Health Kit app, allowing users to track their movement and sync it with their phone. Relatedly, I will soon have a FitBit for sale if anyone is interested. The watch tracks any activity above a brisk walk, calories burned, and amount of standing throughout the day to encourage a healthy lifestyle. While I’m not the most fit person on the planet, I like the idea of being able to effortlessly see how lazy I am.
By far, the biggest sticking points for any smart watch is battery life and price, and Apple was noticeably hedgy on both of these. There was no mention of expected battery life, but Apple did show off its inductive charging capabilities, noting that it made it very easy to charge “at night”. I took this to mean the battery will probably only last a day, but we don’t have any definite specs. They also dropped the price at the end very quickly, which to me seems to show that they’re aware that $349 is pretty steep for a watch. The watch won’t be available until early 2015, so you’ll have plenty of time to debate and save up.
What did you think of today’s event? Are you excited for the new products, or was it a big meh? Let us know in the comments!