Apple’s Most Boring Announcement Yet
The products are beautiful and better than ever, but Apple’s events are so tedious we’re starting to wonder why we tune in at all.
Apple unveiled a whole lot of great reasons for gadget-o-philes to keep working on the pearly perfection of their computer tans today, unveiling a new iPad, Apple Watch, TV, and, yes, iPhone, in a torturously tepid two-hour unboxing ceremony.
Gone are the days of slick, concise product announcements, reveals-with-flourish leaving entranced audiences gasping appreciative “oohs and ahhs.” While the tech is still top notch, Apple’s approach to its throngs of devotees has taken a turn to dragging out every possible nuance. Each and every little feature is over-explained and triple-demonstrated to a degree that is mundane—if not a little insulting to once-eager onlookers’ intelligence.
When did Johnny Ive, et al, decide we were idiots?
First up was the Apple Watch, which now comes with more color combos—available now!—and a series in collaboration with ultra-lux fashion brand Hermes. New features such as Time Travel, which lets wearers spin the crown and move through the day viewing the weather and appointments, look both useful and intuitive. Watch OS 2, available on September 16, delivers even more on the promise Apple’s groundbreaking wearable offers. Things started to get a bit long in the tooth when they trotted out app developers to spotlight their wares, but any antsiness could be attributed to anticipation to move on to other goodies.
Next came the iPad Pro, a hotly rumored and long-anticipated larger tablet model with a vast 12.9-inch screen and higher resolution than a 15” Retina display MacBook Pro. Inside, a new 64-bit A9X chip allegedly almost doubles the speed over its predecessor, leading Apple to proclaim its iPad Pro performs faster than 80 percent of current portable PC models. With an optional full-size plug-in keyboard that can double as a cover, this is an assault squarely aimed at Microsoft’s Surface Pro, which has the advantage of not being stuck with a mobile OS and thus running only “apps” instead of full-on desktop programs.
Alongside the Pro comes the Apple Pencil, a stylus that has much of the same usability as those that come with Wacom tablets, allowing users to add another level of tactile interface with their devices.
By getting lost in over-explaining the myriad of possible uses their new iPad has, Apple’s presentation really started to back up on itself. Minutes ticked slowly away as animations swirled and spun, showing over and over just how sensitive the screen was. Infographics showed how this giant tablet was nearly the same weight of the OG iPad model, a veritable 5-year-old dinosaur in comparison. A fresh four-speaker design is twice as loud as other tablets’, and the 10-hour battery life meant that it stayed functional through several more app developers’ plying of their wares.
Does it look cool? Yes, of course it does. Will lots of people buy it? Naturally. Who doesn’t want to edit up to four 4K videos at the same time, or draw a line so fine it is a single pixel—all for under a grand? The creative and industrial potential Apple opened up is compelling, to say the least. But it was getting harder overall to keep up the plodding presentation’s head of steam and, lo and behold, it soon became clear that at the one-hour mark we were only halfway through this thing.
The fully redesigned Apple TV looks to be a massive evolution from former models. With a new touch-sensitive remote, Siri voice-activated search, and its own TV-centric app store and OS, you could feel excitement start to grow again. Sure, some of the “new” tech was old news in other platforms, but this was the cult of Apple, and such things are not to be discussed—most current Apple TV owners would never dream of going to Roku or ChromeCast or whatever else.
Apple’s streaming service Apple Music has been integrated, and a whole slew of games are coming, ready to be controlled a-la-Nintendo’s Wii by wild remote gesticulations. Siri will be able to search by genre, actor, show, and a load of other keywords, aggregating results in a special window. In all, the interface looks to have been greatly improved, a fact they went on to beat into watchers’ eyes over and over again with long-winded demos of video games and flipping back and forth through shows and apps.
By the end of the segment, when they triumphantly announced an October delivery date and price of $149, distracted derision had fully set in. Why were we still here?
Fully an hour and a half had passed since the inception, and the onstage babble and over-articulation of every minuscule bell or whistle have taken on a cynical symbolism. No longer the breezy high-design cool kid on the block, Apple is in danger of being a company drowning in its own Kool Aid, pouring it on thick to wash away any hint of staleness in their tech. Sure, all these features are new, but it’s not the sort of mind-bending, revolutionary goodness that keeps a cult of personality champing at the bit. Incremental upgrades and planned obsolescence are a bitch.
But wait! Here it is. The moment we’ve all waited for all afternoon—the new iPhone 6S.
While maintaining the same appearance as the just barely year-old iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the 6S models have a tougher, bendgate-resistant metal skeleton and glass screen, new rose gold color option, and a 70 percent faster processor, which raises the question: “Is it really faster, even if it was already so fast that you didn’t know it was slow?”
The buzzword dujour is 3D Touch, an expansion on the multitouch screen that measures force as well as gesture, so that pressing and holding in varying degrees of intensity can act as commands. What will drive sales, however, is the camera upgrade, from 8 to 12 megapixels in the rear, with a newly designed sensor capable of producing truer color and better low-light performance coupled with 50 percent faster autofocus. The front “Facetime” camera jumps up to 5 megapixels, and instead of a small flash, the whole Retina display pops brightly for selfies. Video, too, is expanded, to 4K resolution.
Perhaps the coolest of all, however, is the new “Live Photos” feature. Shoots a few seconds of videos around a standard snapshot, Live Photo images spring to life when poked via 3D Touch. It’s a novel, and genuinely cool, concept that social media monster Facebook is already planning to integrate.
As a mumbled tribute to the lack of actual groundbreaking innovation in the new handsets or a just moment of generosity from Apple (we’ll let you be the judge) the 6S models will retain the same pricing structure as the 6.
Still don’t want to shell out a huge wad of cash for a new, slightly better phone? You probably didn’t sit through the whole two-hour presentation, then. But lucky for you Apple has decided to get in on the phone finance game, now offering a relatively low monthly fee for an unlocked iPhone, which you can then swap out every year when the latest iteration is birthed into our eagerly clutching fingers.
This new in-house rental plan is another indicator that Apple may be starting to doubt its own dominance, a push to have more direct control over the aspirational consumer market that, naturally, will always want whatever is the newest. It’s in our blood, after all.
The new iPhone 6S models are available for preorder September 12, and will be on the streets September 25.