It… Just… Works…

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I have witnessed a lot of snark and humour at Apple’s expense over the past week since the iPhone X was announced and I wonder where it all comes from at times. I am not wondering because of what is being said exactly, but more because it simply does not matter.

My MacBook works, my iPad Pro works and my iPhone, which gets countless hours of use every day, works. What more do I need and why do I need to be concerned at how the products came to be?

Computing products should be designed to help you do things, to help you manage your life and to help you communicate with others. Anything else is just noise floating around the edges of the real world.

A brand new feature that does not work well is just a time suck that ultimately is a mere novelty that has no positive end purpose. This is why Apple is often very late to the party when it comes to introducing features that are new to Apple, but far from new to the computing world.

Look at Touch ID- it was the first fingerprint sensor that you forgot about within days of using it. Look at the Apple Watch. I may prefer real watches, but the reality is that the Apple Watch is a decent watch which works perfectly well as a time teller which just happens to have a few handy features as a bonus.

I could take this further- look at macOS and iOS as a whole, they (99% of the time) just work and are designed to help you do something useful.

Face ID will likely be the same when we get to use it and it is likely to outperform anything from Google for its ease of use and efficiency. Apple Pay, iCloud Notes, the touch system and so it continues. You may not get tons of customisation, but you will get a system that gives you control over your days without the need to mess around with settings and reliability problems.

There are features that could be better of course (Siri is a good example), but the reality is that Apple produces products that are beneficial to the individual and not just laden with fancy inventions to catch the eye.

Who cares if the features come later than the competition as long as they work in a way that makes them disappear and become a small part of your life? When you add them together you get loyalty, compatibility between person and machine, and the ability to charge more than £1,000 for a phone.

Lessons

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What is and remains so brilliant about the iPhone specifically and Apple’s business broadly is how everything is aligned around Apple being the Apple Jobs envisioned: a company that shows its “appreciation to the rest of humanity [by making] something wonderful and put[ting] it out there.” By making the best products Apple earns loyal customers willing to pay a premium; loyal customers give Apple both freedom to make large scale changes and also a point of leverage against partners like carriers and developers. And then, the resultant profits lets Apple buy the small companies and do the R&D to create the next set of products… More at stratechery.

A brilliant article.

Apple’s Presentation

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Unfortunately for Apple, most of what was shown had been leaked or accurately rumoured. That seems to get worse as time goes on. Of course this time around, someone leaked the release version of iOS 11.

watchOS 4 has some nice features. I had read about the heart sensing technology. You heard that they were talking to the FDA in the States. The problem would be the same here in Canada. There’s a line over which approval is needed to qualify as a medical diagnostic apparatus. I would like to see it in general use. They’re allowed to handle heart rate recovery and calculate resting rate, and even warn you if there’s a spike, but they can’t tell you if your heart beat is irregular. I know that it’s supposedly for our own protection, but it’s frustrating. Likewise, some non-invasive way to monitor blood sugar is coming, just a matter of when. Unfortunately, I don’t expect the Heart Study to be available outside the U.S.

Apple Watch Series 3 was an incremental upgrade except for the built-in cellular. Now I expect to see watch apps take off. Not enough for me to upgrade yet.

Apple TV 4K was no surprise leaks notwithstanding. Another incremental upgrade. It is nice that they’re freely providing 4K content that you already own in HD.

iPhone 8 was another incremental upgrade although most of the neat stuff is on the Plus. Wireless charging is nice. The Belkin pad is $40 US ($50 Cdn) but cheaper options are available. Apple may have trouble selling theirs. Mind you, it boggles my mind to see the performance specs of the CPUs. 6 cores!!!!

Nice that they were able to get a meaningful “One more thing” in.

iPhone X is a nice evolution. I don’t consider it a revolution but it’s a lot more than an increment. I’m surprised that they talk about it as iPhone Ten. Must be the same as macOS X which is supposed to be called macOS Ten. I guess the other line has a maximum of 3 iterations left – iPhone 8S, iPhone 9, and iPhone 9S. Surely they wouldn’t have an iPhone 10 and an iPhone X.

I’m impressed by the screen size. It’s surprising how much space the bezel on the other iPhones used. The X is 0.2″ taller and 0.14” wider than the 7 or 6S, hardly enough to matter. Although they say it’s 5.8” diagonal, the aspect ratio is 2.16 rather than 1.78 on the other phones. That’s all the space saved by eliminating the home button as well as the top bezel.

I’m going to be very interested to see how well Face ID does in the real world. Of course you can probably just set the phone to use a password and just use Face ID for the important stuff Animoji.

The iPhone X starts at $999US. On the Canadian store, it’s listed as $1320Cdn. Pretty damned expensive. Even the iPhone 8 starts at $929Cdn. Don’t think I can justify either, although I wouldn’t bother upgrading my iPhone 6S to an 8. An X, maybe, but not at that price.

Re that closing quote, for people who don’t follow hockey, Wayne Gretzky was one of the greatest hockey players ever.

Bob

Beware the new iTunes

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Beware the new iTunes if you manage your iOS apps on your Mac. As of version 12.7, they’ve removed the iOS App Store from iTunes. While I applaud the thinning of iTunes, there is no real replacement. Some things become more of a pain. Some things are lost entirely.

To download an app, it must be done on your iDevice, once for each device.

There’s no way to get a list of the apps downloaded but not installed, at least not a convenient list like the Library list that was in iTunes. You can still list the Mobile Applications folder, but I don’t know if it gets kept up to date. There certainly won’t be an easy way to delete an app with the intention of re-installing at some point in the future. You’ll have to remember it and re-download it.

If you have to restore your iDevice, the restore re-downloads all the apps again. I expect that a backup will keep track of installed apps, but may not actually store the apps on your Mac. That means that if an app is pulled from the App Store, you may not be able to re-install. I’m not sure of this but it seems to be what they’re doing.

One thing they did keep was the ability to transfer files directly through iTunes. It’s called File Transfer and is in the left side menu panel for an iDevice.

There are also changes to ringtones.

If you’ve already updated, you can go back if you have a copy of the old iTunes. This is why I always keep at least one old version. There’s a folder in your iTunes folder called Previous iTunes Libraries. In there you’ll find the last version’s library. So you can copy it out and remove the date from the name. You’ll have to delete the new iTunes directly since I don’t think an older iTunes will install over a new one. I did this and I’ve got back the old iTunes and App Store. Now I have to decide how to manage the change because the new iTunes is needed for iOS 11.

Bob

Just The Good Stuff

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As is tradition, we’ve live-blogged the proceedings below in reverse chronological order, offering that brand of commentary and analysis you’ve come to know and love. So if you missed the livestream, just scroll to the bottom and work your way up. And if you’d like to see the Apple news firehose, check our our Apple channel page… More at Digg.

A very good rundown of what happened. Thanks to Bob.

The new Apple stuff

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I shall ignore the fact that Apple Events was unavailable on my Apple TV at the start of the keynote and that AirPlay kept playing up when streaming from my iPad. These things happen I guess, but perhaps it is an indication that there is still much to improve no matter how often people accuse Apple of not innovating anymore.

Apple Watch

Still no real numbers for Apple Watch sales apart from the fact that it now sells more than any other watch. This number, however, is likely not as high as you may think. Irrelevant of that, the Apple Watch is selling in decent numbers and should have a long future from what we saw tonight.

The software tweaks that were first spoken about are nice to see and once again Apple is focussing on the nuances that many other companies would not even consider. Faith in the heart rate monitoring is obviously strong and Apple is proving that by looking at the medical side with the Apple Heart Study. To have the trust to notify users if there is a potential heart problem is a huge deal and a selling point for many more people.

The Series 3 has cellular built in which perplexes me somewhat. I can see why serious Apple Watch fans would want this type of connectivity, but think about the limited use of apps on the Apple Watch currently. It is a nice to have option and the Apple Music streaming integration is brilliant, but cellular connectivity is not enough to get around the small screen and natural lack of usability any smart watch suffers from.

I keep thinking about this and do wonder if there is a case for leaving the house with just a cellular Apple Watch, and there obviously is, but it took a long time to get the world using smartphones and it will take a LONG time to get enough people to leave their phones at home, even for a minute.

The big question comes to money though and the immediate thought of having to pay for 2 contracts sprang to mind. Only limited networks are available at launch and the mention of ‘a special offer’ from the carriers did not allay my fears for having to pay for 2 contracts. We will find out more in time.

Apple TV

Next up was the device that failed to display the event, but ho hum. Apple TV 4K feels slightly behind the times when you consider that so many TVs already display the latest TV resolution. The HDR thingy is nice I guess, but in my personal experience the Apple TV has been overtaken by so many competitors and standalone TVs that I am failing to see its relevance anymore. I only use it to play purchases I made through iTunes with all others going through Amazon which is available on my Samsung TV, as is Netflix and the rest.

There is no doubt that Apple is going to play hard in the TV arena and that the battle is just beginning, but the actual hardware could be the limiting factor here more than any other Apple product. People want access to Netflix, Amazon TV Prime, YouTube and maybe iTunes. The problem for Apple is that people will not buy a physical product to watch the latter. Games and apps are nice, but have not set the world alight and I remain convinced that Apple TV is not special enough to beat the competition.

It also needs to be cheaper than it currently is and $179 is not cheap. And where is Amazon Prime for the Apple TV? Later this year apparently, but September is already later this year.

iPhone

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are what you would expect in any other year. Glass front and back are nice with the same slippery bar of soap form that feels all too familiar to me and the Retina HD display comes with True Tone which is a huge bonus. If you have seen True Tone on an iPad Pro you will know why. Better speakers (stereo) with deeper bass, a better camera and a more powerful processor create a phone that will be better than the iPhone 7, that will be better than any iPhone before it, but this is 2017 and that’s not enough.

Some of the lighting effects are extremely impressive in the camera and once again highlight how much Apple thinks about mobile photography. The video demo was amazing- who knew we would be able to capture such quality from a phone?

The AR stuff also looks good and will likely be a slow burner. It could, however, be what we use in almost every app and game in a few years time.

Wireless charging! I can hear people scoffing now at the unoriginality of it. However, iPhone users have not been able to do that and now we can. At some point the charging port will follow the headphone port to a place that does not exist and it’s good to see Qi chargers from almost anyone will work with the iPhone 8 models. No dedicated accessories needed.

OK, forget everything above. The iPhone X.

Strangely Tim called it ‘iPhone 10’ which seems silly because we will all say ‘X’.

Slippery bar of soap form again, but that display looks stunning. The entire phone looks stunning as it happens- give me the silver one please.

The notch at the top really does stand out in a bad way, but maybe we will get used to it in time and I wonder if app developers will start adding black areas at the top.

Face ID looks brilliant, it really does, and is likely to work so much better than the competition. It could make Touch ID seem archaic in comparison and I was mightily impressed by the technical innovations behind it. I also like the simplicity of using Apple Pay with it because it is even quicker than now.

I actually like the Animoji idea a lot. It’s silly, but its the kind of silly I enjoy and would use.

I must say that the iPhone X looks and feels like a leap and is a phone that has jumped from the iPhone 6 – 8 designs to feel brand new in 2017. It has been some time since a new form arrived and I am impressed. This feels like a new beginning for the iPhones we will see over the next half-decade and that is far from a bad thing.

From $999 (64GB) – order from end of October. Is that expensive? Well, Bob commented with this today-

Shaun wrote “it is likely better value than almost every other object you buy.”

So I thought about this and did some calculations. If I keep an iPhone for 2 years and it cost me $1000 Cdn, then that’s about $1.3 per day. It kept it simple and didn’t consider resale. Obviously the longer I keep it, the less the per day cost. If I buy a 65″ 4K TV for $1500 and keep it until the next “standard” comes out, say 5 years, that’s about $0.82 per day. However, most people probably use their phone more than their TV.

Then, out of curiosity, I did a car. Say $30,000 and you keep it for 5 years. That’s about $16 per day!!! If you drive it into the ground, say over 10 years, that’s $8 per day not including operating costs and maintenance. And just to get ridiculous, if you bought a house for $400,000 and kept it for 40 years, that’s about $27 per day.

Suddenly the iPhone is a bargain.

As to Shaun’s question, will I be buying the new iPhone? Probably not. Since I’ve retired, I don’t use my phone as much and the 6S I have is perfectly adequate. I’m also coming to the end of my 2 year contract, so the phone is paid for and my monthly bill will be going down.