Apple, Again

So Apple had its usual multimedia extravaganza to promote their forward-thinking, innovative iOS and iPhone releases. Apple’s taken a lot of hits lately for their lack of innovation, but I think today sets the record straight. Just look at what all they announced:

  • The way forward is through new sales. All of the apps in their iWork suite will be free. To anyone buying a new iOS device, anyway. Current customers don’t matter, Apple is looking forward to the new customers and rewarding them with Keynote, Pages, Numbers, iPhoto, and iMovie.
  • iOS 7 will be available to all on September 18th. Hey, they’re looking a whole week into the future! It’s got all kinds of unique features like a convenient Control Center and Notification Center. Nothing like those on any Android phone! Well, OK, maybe there is, but iOS’ versions have that futuristic “flat” look! Yeah, I’m exaggerating here, but frankly iOS has been commentated to death already. There isn’t much here that we haven’t known about since the first beta.
  • That ancient iPhone 5 is dead, dead, dead. It’s being replaced by the exciting new iPhone 5C, the even more exciting iPhone 5S, and the absolutely thrilling iPhone 4S. Wait, what?
    • The iPhone 5C is (as Ars Technica put it) essentially identical to the iPhone 5 but plastic instead of aluminum. The big excitement is that it will be available in thrilling new colors: blue, green, red, yellow, and white. Oh, and its front-facing camera will have better low-light performance than that old iPhone 5. Prices starting at $99. Pre-order starting Friday, available a week later. Again, looking forward.
    • (Turning the snark mode off for a moment. Mostly.) The 5S is where the innovation really shines. Brand new 64-bit CPU (“The only phone with a 64-bit CPU”), up to twice as fast as the previous generation. iOS 7 has, of course, been fully updated to support 64-bit code while retaining full backward compatibility with existing 32-bit apps. In the long term, this will be a big win in terms of speed and capability. In the short term, we’re going to see a flood of customer complaints about apps not being updated to 64-bit versions, even in cases where there’s no value in it. A new “motion co-processor” will handle the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass without the CPU needing to get involved. Opens up possibilities for context-sensitive and activity-aware apps. Major enhancements to the camera (bigger pixels, wider aperture, larger image sensor) combined with OS updates that pretty much boil down to “you don’t need to know a thing about photography to take pretty pictures”. A lot of the changes amount to taking multiple pictures at once and then the OS choosing the best of them, because it knows what effect you were going for better than you do. And then there’s that famous fingerprint reader in the home button. No more passcode and no more typing your password to buy something from the iTunes store. Just put your finger on the button. Very slick. Of course, if you share your phone, you’re screwed. It’s going to be a lot harder to share a finger than it was to share a passcode. Lior, I’m sure you’ll be happy to sacrifice a finger to the cause, right? Snip it off, preserve it in plastic, and pass it around to the team… At least you can use the same finger for multiple phones. Oh, and let’s not forget that you fingerprint data is encrypted and stored locally on the phone, never uploaded to Apple’s servers. That means the NSA can’t get your fingerprint. Uh… unless they arrest you and take your phone away. But they wouldn’t do that, because the fingerprint is only decryptable via the TouchID software on your phone. They can’t possibly crack that encryption, right? And if they can’t, nobody else can either! This phone is so cutting edge and futuristic that you can’t even pre-order it. It’ll be available on September 20th and you can order it then!
    • And that spiffy new iPhone 4S is free-with-contract. Because in the future, there’s still going to be a demand for a slower CPU and a lower-resolution screen. Apple’s got you covered, future retro enthusiasts!
  • The future of music is its past! The show ended with an appearance of Elvis Costello, whose long career is a clear indication that he’ll continue to produce cutting edge music for years to come. Look, Apple, I love Elvis Costello as much as the next guy, but if you’re trying to establish relevance and forward-thinking, he’s probably not the right choice. How about showcasing a new group, somebody on the edge of success, or at most just enough of a track record to show they’re not a one-hit wonder?

As you may have gathered, I wasn’t hugely wowed by Apple’s announcements. Yes, the 5S is a significant step forward, but it’s going to take some time for developers to catch up to its capabilities.

In Apple’s defense, though, I was pleased to see that they’re not following the current Android trend of ever-larger phones with ever-larger camera pixel counts. They may not be blazing new trails, but at least they’re not tramping down the same trail as everyone else.

8 thoughts on “Apple, Again

  1. No .. I need all ten digits, they each have a purpose and can’t be replaced. But i am honored you mentioned me!

    64 Bit architecture would be interesting. I wonder how much more space from the advertised storage will be hogged by a huge OS. How much of the 16 GB will actually be accessible storage? Also, backward compatibility will be interesting to test with 32 bit software, there is always THAT chance.

    I am curious about the motion processor and the speedy graphics, maybe someone will find a way to use it into a killer app, but i doubt it.

    Camera stuff is old news, there was a camera by Casio (yes, them) that started taking picture as you touched the shutter and after you let go. It was great for those last second, damn I missed that moment. My S4 has the ability to take multi shots, and as cool as it might be, you have to choose your shot before you have to take another, so it slows down the fun. If Apple has you select to agree after each shot, it would be a useless feature. I believe Casio saved little “film rolls” for you to go thru later. They had the right idea, memory is cheap, so take 1000 pictures, and clean up later. Will have to see how Apple implemented it.

    Finger print reader blah. Yes, how lame to let it read finger prints and not create a method to have profiles, but its a phone, and you want to get the calls on your phone. So unless they can have multiple numbers on a phone, its not much use for customers. Apple needs to buy into the multiple user concept, even just so that corporate IT can have some control over devices, but why mess with the device per person concept. The new Nexus rocks with multiple users, so, if the iPad gets a finger print reader with multiple profile, then its something to talk about, but far from innovative.

    Finger print part 2. NSA doesn’t need to have apple send files, they can just have apple include a list of wanted finger prints in each device. So when the unlucky target touches any 5S, the phone pings the NSA. Cool conspiracy ah? Feel free to run with it, you know NSA has reach and influence to do it.

    We all love Costello, what would you rather have on stage? Miley Cyrus twerking on stage with dancers dressed as 5C iPhones? Oh yes, I went there, your blog now has a twerking comment. Boo Ya!!

    iWork will be free with new devices. LOL. Remember when they sold old OX till last minute before announcement and then charged for upgrade the poor fools who didn’t wait for the announcement and bought Macs right before. This is no different, apple, will always be looking forward and claiming you are holding it wrong.

    So yea, I need all 10 fingers, and I think this is me telling the world that is apple is No 1, no?, am I holding my hands wrong, that’s not No 1?

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    • What about a toe? You need all of those?

      Even with the 5C, I wonder how much of the 16 GB will be available to the user. iOS is, like all operating systems, getting bigger and bigger as time goes by.

      Yep, backward compatibility will be fun. Add in the impact of the new GPU on the graphics and the changes to the camera on existing functionality, and there’s a lot of testing to figure out.

      Miley is hardly “up and coming”… My own nightmare after I posted the report was Mumford and Sons — now there’s an example of doing the same thing again and again and calling it new…

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  2. I vote that Lior can spare a finger or two for the cause. I want to see this blazing speed for myself because I’m getting so tired of my slow-ass iPhone 5 😉

    Great summary of today’s announcement!

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    • Don’t get too excited about Lior sacrificing a finger to the cause. For one thing, you don’t know which finger he’ll choose. For another, I suspect your team is going to need a finger for their own devices. You volunteering? 😉

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  3. I heard a theory somewhere that Apple switched the top of the line iPhone to 64 bit as part of its master plan to get rich on flash memory storage. (As you might imagine I’ve heard lots of theories about Apple’s master plans. Guess how many of them I believe.)

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    • It’s an interesting theory, and the current drop in the cost of flash storage lends it some support. I’d be more inclined to believe it if they also announced a line of flash-based iPods with capacities above 64 MB.

      A number of analysts expect Apple to kill off the hard drive based iPod classic any day now. If they do, I can’t see them leaving 64 MB as the top of the line. Ubiquitous Wi-Fi just isn’t quite; I don’t see them declaring local storage dead for another two to three years.

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      • I agree with you. I would be more inclined to think that their strategy is to force you to buy multiple devices if you want to have a lot of your stuff with you. (*clings to iPod Classic*)

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      • Right. Because everybody wants \their cell phone, their “exercise music” music player, their “riding the bus to work” video player, and their “keep the kids quiet in the car” media player to all be separate gadgets, just like in the old days.

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