Apple’s September 9th Event – a summary

I didn’t manage to watch the live stream for numerous reasons, so there won’t be my typical comments on the idiosyncrasies of the presenters.

There were countless leaks prior to the keynote, including iPhone shells and diagrams of the watch, so not much was an actual surprise. One thing I’d like to the tell journalists and media outlets is – don’t guess or try to coin the name of an upcoming Apple product, as you will be wrong. It happened with the Apple TV (guessed to be iTV), the iPad (guessed to be iSlate etc.), and now the Apple Watch (assumed to be called iWatch). Whether Apple runs with a different name just to toy with you, or you really just do have a spate of bad luck with guessing, simply don’t bother. If people had run with “the rumored Apple watch”, it would have been faultless. But no, mass media insists on claiming they have some scoop that nobody else does, so misinformation and rumors are spread. Rant over, now on to what was actually announced.

Not much. I’m not some spoiled Apple fanboy, particularly since I have no interest in iPhones because of the limitations of iOS, but Apple really didn’t announce much yesterday, particularly considering the hype they tried to create for the event. No iMac, Apple TV, or iPod refreshes, no Thunderbolt Display redesign to match the current iMac design, nothing. In fact, Apple even quietly killed the iPod Classic.

iPhone 6

Larger than the iPhone 5s, a 4.7″ display, has a landscape view similar to that of the iPad, is the thinnest iPhone to date, slightly longer battery life, burst mode with the front facing camera, A8 64-bit processor with M8 motion coprocessor, NFC, supports Apple Pay, continuous autofocus video, and the sports design we’ve all seen leaked for a couple of months now. Which may I just say has aspects rather reminiscent of a certain competing handset:


iPhone 6 Plus

Everything the iPhone 6 has, except a bigger screen (5.5″, with a ppi of 401 vs the iPhone 6’s 326ppi), is undeniably a phablet, slightly thicker than the iPhone 6, has a significantly longer battery life, and optical image stabilization.

Apple Watch

Undeniably the smartest smartwatch that’s been announced so far. However, it may be too smart. Features an incredibly cluttered UI, an overload of gimmicky features, and a variety of editions paired with a fairly smart interchangeable strap mechanism. Android smartwatches are more in the realm of a basic unobtrusive companion device, whereas the Apple Watch, despite requiring an iPhone (5c through to 6 Plus), offers the ability to do far far too much. So much that I don’t have the energy to list everything it’s capable of, so you can simply check the list yourself here – I predict that most people that buy Apple Watches will not use them to their full potential. Tim Cook said that development of the Apple Watch started after Steve Jobs passed away. It shows. The square iPod Nano was incredibly simplistic by contrast.


A week with Mac OS Yosemite

Available to developers since June 2nd, Yosemite is currently in beta, so there are bugs and glitches that won’t appear later this year when it’s released.

A premium OS for a premium range of computers. That’s not elitist, just look at the price tags, and after all, despite writing about Apple for years, I haven’t owned a Mac for very long, but, Mac OS is simply where I’m at my most productive. I still have a Windows desktop for doing heavy lifting and media serving, but the MacBook is where I spend all of my online time. Anyway, my point is that Yosemite feels like a ‘premium’ improvement on an already premium experience.

That said, I’m enjoying Yosemite. When I first saw the new dock leaked a few days before the WWDC keynote, my first thought was “Are they bringing back OS X Tiger?” But, perhaps in order to move forwards you have to look to the past first. While I’m a stickler for continuity and nostalgia, I don’t think the general dock design from Leopard to Mavericks had much of a future left in it, as it had been evolved as much as possible. In essence, a new dock design was due, and I’m happy with the way it went. The subtle translucency is very reminiscent of the iOS 7 and iOS 8 Control Center, and something I am a fan of as it makes the OS feel even more personal.

The fullscreen button on the left of title bars has gone, and instead been merged with the maximize button to the right. What this achieves is cleaner title bars, and may make the possibility of making apps go fullscreen more obvious to less savvy users (it happens). I don’t dislike it, and it means less cursor movement is required, so I suppose it’s a good change.

(This paragraph is a mess, but I can’t think how to rewrite it with improvements) Tabs in Chrome were crashing every second after loading content, so I have temporarily returned to Safari for web browsing on my MacBook. While this dents my tab continuity across my three key devices, it also means I’m experiencing the improvements to Safari. The bird’s eye view for tabs is a bit slow at the moment when transitioning, and feels like the Windows Phone 7 multitasking view, where upon selecting a tab, it zooms in to a screenshot of it, then visibly transitions into the live page. What would be nice is a trackpad gesture to enter the tab birds eye view. If that already exists, I’ve not noticed it, but could very much do with it. I tend to get carried away with tabs, often running into the eighties, where in Chrome that would be so many that i can’t actually distinguish between tabs. In Safari, thanks to the bird’s eye view and scrolling through the tab bar, I can easily get to the tab I’m looking for, and birds eye view makes mass closing of certain tabs a relative breeze. However, I reached a stage where I had so many tabs that in bird’s eye view they became a sliver of their former selves at the bottom of the list, and switching between any tabs became a very lengthy process with Safari becoming unresponsive. One pain that I’ve been reintroduced to through using Safari again is how the new tab text input is never ready instantly when I open a new tab, but rather responsive after a few seconds – which hits productivity. Pair that with the slowness that the shared links sidebar can bring, and some otherwise decent features become useless. However, I’ve had these responsiveness issues before Yosemite, so it isn’t a flaw in 10.10 specifically, just an ongoing lack of optimization.

As far as I can tell, the Calendar (which I run as a fullscreen window) keeps silently crashing or vanishing somewhere, but that’s not much of a pain. Mail has also become unreliable when fetching new emails, but that may just be the network. Dark mode isn’t present in the current beta, but I am eagerly anticipating it.  In its current state, Yosemite is a visual breath of fresh air for me, which alone would be a welcome upgrade. That there’s certain new functionality as well simply sweetens the deal, and I can’t wait to see what developers do in the way of widgets for the Notification Center.

Is Apple getting stagnant?

A couple of years ago, it seemed as if every twelve months, a product refresh, regardless of the product, would come along. Personally, it doesn’t feel that way anymore.

Ignoring the iPhone release cycle getting knocked out of the twelve month loop with the 4S, it appears to be happening. Here are some examples:

  • The iPod Classic – not been changed since 2009, but on the flip-side hasn’t been discontinued
  • The iPod shuffle hasn’t seen a new generation since 2010, although there have been color updates to it
  • The iPod nano hasn’t seen an update since October 2012, other than similar color updates
  • The Apple Remote – also hasn’t been changed since 2009, and desperately needs to be since it isn’t compatible with the current MacBook Airs, Retina MacBook Pros, or iMacs. You’d think releasing a bluetooth version of the remote was a logical step, but after the discontinuation of the Front Row software I suppose Apple don’t see the point. Personally, I’d find a remote for iTunes other than using my iPod a great benefit.
  • What was missing from the list of incompatible Apple hardware? The Mac mini, which hasn’t been updated since October 2012 and is therefore overdue an update – logically you’d think Apple would have announced a Haswell update around the time of the latest MacBook Air update.
  • The Apple TV is sort of overdue an update – the current third generation was initially released in March of last year, but January 2013 saw an ‘update’ – a very slight change in the processor.
  • Speaking of TVs, Apple’s current standalone display, the Thunderbolt compatible and aptly named ‘Thunderbolt Display‘, has been out since mid 2011, and sports the same chunky edges as the iMacs of that era. 2013 however saw an iMac redesign with incredibly tapered edges, so surely a similarly designed (and potentially Thunderbolt 2 capable) standalone display should be in the works, especially considering the impending release of the new Mac Pro. Incidentally, the Mac Pro would also have made this list if it weren’t for Apple updating it – although ‘update’ is an understatement since it’s more of an overhaul.

That’s quite a long list of products that Apple haven’t discontinued nor updated. Of course, one question is “do they need to be updated?” to which my answer is yes and no – I think the Apple Remote needs updating; as the price of flash storage is constantly coming down Apple could potentially release a new iPod Classic with the same amount of storage, although that may make iPhone and iPod touch owners a bit frustrated; the Mac mini ought to be updated solely for the sake of staying current; and the Thunderbolt Display design should be updated solely for the sake of keeping in line with their current design portfolio. But, none of those are as front-line and in need of updating to match competition as their key computers and portable devices.

Talking of matching competition though, there is an argument for an Apple TV update. Home media centers are an ever-increasing trend, and there’s a plethora of options to choose from. If you have a spare PC, then you can simply use Media Browser Classic or Media Browser 3, Plex, Media Portal, or XBMC. If you want a standalone device you could go for the immensely capable Popcorn Hour, or more web-based products such as Roku and Boxee – although I just discovered that Boxee slipped yet further and doesn’t exactly exist in its ‘current’ form anymore. If you’re after a really web-lite experience, then the Google Chromecast may suit your needs. If however, your household is an Apple ecosystem, you probably have iPhones, iPads, and an extensive iTunes media library, and the easiest way to use a media center with that is an Apple TV. But, with the constant flood of Smart TVs, your old Apple TV probably feels inferior to even your neighbor’s new bargain TV they got on a Black Friday deal. Which is why I think that Apple need to update the Apple TV, and not just a specification increase, something that matches competition. I don’t know what, as I don’t know how much ecosystem control Apple would want to relinquish, but AirPlay streaming and mirroring aren’t quite cutting it at the end of 2013.

As a closing thought, I do wonder if the reign of Cook has anything to do with this rut, just looking at how his overall vision is different to how Jobs’ was it’s easy to draw justifiable conclusions.