Today’s Apple event was the company’s most significant in some time with four major announcements. And when else could two new, bigger iPhones leadoff instead of batting cleanup? As expected, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus see Apple finally making a move to larger screens. Apple Pay, the company’s new mobile payment system, looks to be a secure, convenient way of making purchases, though Apple CEO Tim Cook went much further, saying it would “forever change the way all of us buy things.” And of course, the long-awaited introduction of Apple Watch — no “i” on the front — which offers plenty of interesting features, but starts at $349 and requires an iPhone. Our editors share their views on all of today’s debuts in this multi-editorial.
| Phil Dzikiy, Editor-in-Chief: If Apple really wanted to show us their new products, you couldn’t tell by the quality of the live stream. A disaster. And the less said about the Apple TV stream, the better. I don’t know if my Apple TV will ever recover.
For those of us who follow Apple closely, the iPhones offered few surprises. I have the feeling at this point where I just expect the newest iPhone to look nice, and this presentation didn’t change that. Rare is the time when two new iPhones can take a backseat, but here we are. I still haven’t decided which one I’ll use as my everyday phone, but I’m leading toward the Plus, mostly for the battery.
Apple Pay is also going to be a bit overlooked due to all the watch hubbub, but if Apple manages to convince people of the strong security features, I can see it growing at a rapid pace. If you have the option, why not use it? It may only be a minor convenience upgrade for some, but I’ve known others who’ve been clamoring for this exact kind of solution for quite a while.
Now, the Apple Watch. Some are already writing the device off because of the price — the $349 starting point is too much for some, and what will the cost of the Edition be? — and its necessary reliance on the iPhone. I’m not sure Apple convinced too many of those people that the watch was a must-have. But I think if you were open to the device, you were more than likely impressed. I don’t regularly wear a watch, but I’m ready to give this a try. Though Apple has dubbed it a watch, the device’s success will depend on how convincingly it breaks free of those boundaries. I think the debut was an intriguing starting point. Now, about that battery life…
| Jeremy Horwitz, Executive Editor: Regarding the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, despite occasional rumors that Apple would go with the name “iPhone Air” this time out, it instead used the “Plus” name we first mentioned was under consideration back in January 2013. Whatever you may think of the exterior design — and now that it’s official, we can say “what’s up with those funky antenna stripes?” – most of the new internal changes are continuations of the slightly-too-minor evolutionary theme we’ve been seeing since Tim Cook became CEO. A faster processor. Faster cellular and Wi-Fi. Extra screen pixels and four more icons on the Home screen. Small improvements aside, the decision to go once again with a 720p FaceTime camera and 8-Megapixel rear iSight camera was downright disappointing — doubly so that Apple put a slightly better iSight module in the larger, less pocket-friendly Plus model. Nothing in either iPhone 6 model makes the iPhone 5s look antiquated.
Once again, however, largely iterative improvements aren’t going to stop this from being the most successful iPhone series ever. The bigger, more viewable and more color-accurate screens alone are going to be game-changers for a lot of people, including me, if that extra real estate means easier typing for bigger-handed users. Better battery life has been demanded for years, and coming too slowly for many people, but the iPhone 6 Plus looks set to put that issue to rest assuming you’re willing to carry it around. Oh, and the higher capacity versions will make a lot of people happy, too. I’m anxious to see how the Apple Pay feature performs, even though I was really disappointed by the half-hearted, overhyped execution of Touch ID in the iPhone 5s last year. We’ll really want to wait until we have finished our full tests to know just how much better these phones are in reality, but on the basis of what Apple’s shown so far, this will be a good year for the iPhone family.
On the Apple Watch: I haven’t said a lot about the watch during the development process, but I was a lot more skeptical about this particular product than anything else Apple has released in years. I was a very early and vocal supporter of the iPad, before and after it was officially announced, and felt very positive about the iPhone apart from the initially high pricing. Conceptually, the Apple Watch didn’t make a lot of sense to me before it was formally revealed, and now that it’s been shown, it still doesn’t sound quite right. I don’t know that I want a watch that’s dependent on an iPhone, or one with what appears to be a day or so of battery life, or one that starts at $349. None of the health features, cute UI details, or sexy wristbands change those facts. It’s a classic example of “the next shiny new thing,” complete with plenty of gloss and reflection during Apple’s introduction videos, without the underlying meat to really make me want one.
But wow, it does look pretty cool. The Milanese band, stainless steel body, and Retina screen all are pretty nicely designed. Some of the UI features are neat, including the watch faces, while others (on-screen buttons and dialogue, particularly) seriously need an extra coat or two of gloss. For me, the problem is just the functionality. If there was a single thing about the Apple Watch that really made me feel a need to buy one, I might be able to justify spending some money. But so far, it just looks like something that does some of the same things as an iPhone while still requiring an iPhone to be around, as well as frequent recharging. Hopefully something changes between now and early 2015.
| Jesse Hollington, Applications Editor:Today’s Apple event was an interesting mixed bag of interesting new technology in the form of the Apple Watch and an example of Apple’s slower and more iterative approach with the new iPhone models.
The iPhone 6 may be one of the most relatively minor iPhone updates in recent Apple history, with the only major improvement being the larger screen sizes—the old 4-inch screen of the 5 series has been retired in favour of not one, but two larger size models. Other than internal performance improvements and some new sensors and image improvements, there’s not much there in the realm of “cool” new features. Apple Pay as a service is certainly interesting for U.S. based users, but being in Canada, it’s a non-starter until Apple can expand it outside of the U.S.—a task that many other companies in the mobile payments space have already found so elusive as to leave me not holding my breath. The bottom line is that this will probably be the first year I don’t rush out to update to the latest and great iPhone.
Tim Cook positioned the Apple Watch in a way very similar to how Steve Jobs originally presented the iPhone—as three great devices in one—and I found that the Apple Watch presentation left me with many of the same feelings as the original iPhone unveiling back in 2007—a mixed bag of feelings between what looked like really cool technology while I simultaneously questioned the practicality of it for the price.
It’s easy to get caught up in the Reality Distortion Field that accompanies most Apple Events and get excited until you start really thinking about what Apple didn’t say. The iWatch looks cool by itself, and the features range from cool to more than slightly creepy (sharing heartbeats? seriously?) but Apple glossed over how it’s likely going to need to remain in close proximity to an iPhone to be of any practical use. This leaves me asking myself whether not having to pull my iPhone out of my pocket to look at it when it goes off is really worth $349. I don’t know the answer to that question yet, but as somebody who hasn’t worn a watch in over a decade to begin with, I’m definitely on the fence about what practical value the Apple Watch will bring.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on Apple’s newest products. Share your opinions in the comments or tweet at @iLounge.