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Apple admits Samsung was right about big phones, embraces choice

9 conclusions from the Apple launch

OPINION Andy Vandervell considers the latest Apple launch and implications it has for Apple and its rivals, starting with how Apple has finally embraced the ‘phablet’.

Apple finally admits Samsung was right about big phones

I remember my reaction to the original Samsung Galaxy Note. “That’s stupid, how can you use it with one hand?” Apple thought the same, but people voted with their wallets and Apple has belatedly responded. Tim Cook didn’t utter the words ‘Samsung was right’ but everyone else was thinking it.

To underline what a huge about turn this is, consider that the iPhone 6 Plus has a
larger screen (5.5-inches vs 5.3-inches) than the original Galaxy Note
and it’s over a centimetre taller. It’s a smidgen narrower, which is
important, but it’s a huge departure from the Apple norm.

Somewhere in South Korea is a product manager or two suffering mixed feelings. Pride at proving Apple wrong, but fear that the iPhone 6 Plus will eat into Samsung’s sales. Expect one of its increasingly acid-tongued attacks ads to appear close to launch.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6S vs Galaxy Note 4

Apple embraces choice in a meaningful way

The Apple Watch also demonstrated a new-found commitment to choice and personalisation.

In the past the ability to change wallpapers felt like a begrudging nod to convention, but the Apple Watch embraces choice in a way no previous Apple product has. It comes in two sizes and three different versions, each catering to a slightly different niche and Jony Ive made numerous references to the number of ‘combinations’ of watch face, device and strap that are possible.

This feels like another way that Tim Cook’s more inclusive, co-operative approach is seeping into Apple’s products. It’s very welcome.

Apple Watch vs Android Wear

iPhone 6 camera

The camera updates are underwhelming

As an iPhone 5S user I was quietly delighted by how underwhelming the camera improvements were. It makes me feel far better about the phone in my hand right now.

But that isn’t a good thing. The core of the camera in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remains much the same, though the optical image stabilisation in the iPhone 6 could have a big impact.

The other core improvement, the Focus Pixel (read: phase detection) focus system is a nice addition, but I’ve never had any problem with the speed of the iPhone 5S’s camera when focussing. The things I want are a shorter focus distance and a larger sensor and they weren’t here. Ho hum.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5S

Apple Pay was the most important announcement of the night

I lost a long-standing bet with our News Editor, Luke Johnson, that Apple wouldn’t put NFC in the iPhone 6. Clearly I need to get out of the gambling game.

Apple Pay is a long awaited foray into payments and in taking your wallet digital. There are various standards and systems out there, but Apple’s huge payment database, slick execution and sheer clout of the brand should ensure Apple gains a decent, though probably not decisive, foothold.

The reason Apple Pay is important, however, is it’s demonstrably transformative. The iWatch, pretty as it is, doesn’t immediately convince. Apple Pay, however, is easy to understand and improves something that’s clunky and irritating — especially in the US where they don’t even have chip & pin.

This is what technology is meant to do.

Apple Watch leaves many questions unanswered

Read Chris Smith’s piece for more in-depth look at this, but the iWatch (dang, that’s Apple Watch!) makes the most convincing case yet in favour smartwatches. It looks great, the software looks slick and it has a few very clever features no one else has yet. A 2015 release is a shame, but it should give developers plenty of time to support it.

But there are questions, the greatest of which is battery life. The fact Apple made no mention direct mention of it leads me to believe it’s similar to those we’ve seen: about a day. It’s been our biggest complaint and it looks like it will continue to be so. I already have enough gadgets to charge each evening, thank you. Perhaps the robots in The Matrix had the right idea?

Another concern for me is the Apple Watch interface and Digital Crown combination. Apple did its typical slick job of telling people how intuitive it is, but I wasn’t entirely convinced. Is that mesh of tiny icons really an easy entry-point and is the Digital Crown really as easy to use as Apple suggests? Left-handers might take issue there.

The iPad is due some serious attention

It doesn’t take much deduction to realise people who might have once bought an iPad will consider the iPhone 6 Plus. Moreover, some may replace their iPhone and iPad in favour of it. That’s tricky for Apple as a business and it’s about time the iPad saw some serious attention.

It was great to see some specific software optimisations for the iPhone 6 Plus, such as side-by-side apps and extra keyboard functions. Inside, however, I pondered “why can’t my iPad do that?”. For too long the iPad’s software has played second fiddle to the iPhone. It’s time Apple really innovated here and if it doesn’t then people have a right to complain. I’ll head that queue.

Gamers will love the iPhone 6 Plus

iOS has always been a good gaming platform. Its stable and rich ecosystem, powerful hardware and popularity has ensured games are the most downloaded apps in the App Store. The caveat was that previous iPhones weren’t as convenient for gaming as larger Android rivals. The iPhone 6 Plus has a chance to change that and I’d wager the iPhone 6 Plus will become the gaming phone choice for many, provided they’re not put off by the price.

Design comes before battery life at Apple

Forgive me if you think this too obvious a point, but Apple doesn’t care too much about battery life. Just enough is its motto. While the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last longer than the iPhone 5S, at least according to Apple’s numbers, the difference isn’t life-changing.

To a point this is a limitation of battery technology. It’s a famously slow area of innovation. But it also reflects Apple’s priorities. It could have made both new iPhones about the same thickness as the current iPhone and squeezed in more a battery capacity, but it chose not to. This is a slight oversimplification, but Apple could do more if it wanted to.

How much of a problem is this? It probably won’t affect its sales, but there’s certain to be some iPhone owners who hoped for more. I’m one of them.

Apple is trying too hard to be cool and failing

Finally, one of the weirder acts of the night was U2 appearing to perform their (pretty rubbish) new single and the announcement iTunes users were getting its new album for free. That’s great if you’re U2 fan, but U2 is not a ‘now’ band. It has a glorious history and millions of fans, but it’s the sound of this generation. It’s a dad joke where a witty reference is required. It’s also a danger sign.

If Apple wants to be fashion brand, as its Watch announcement suggests, it needs to shed the crusty Beatles, U2 and Coldplay image for something more current. Perhaps Beats can help here? Either that or it should seek Bill Bailey’s advice.

Next, read 5 Apple Watch features you probably missed

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