New iPhones, a new iPad Pro and a new Apple TV, were all unveiled last month during Apple’s Bill Graham Auditorium special event. Beyond iPhone it is difficult to gage exactly which product is garnering the most attention. Now that the iPhone has launched the magic behind the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has yet to be fully discovered. However what is least known is Apple TV and what it will truly be capably of once it begins shipping late October.
The mysteries of Apple TV are numerous, and one unknown begins to pile atop the next. Why does Apple TV’s A8 processor have such a massive heat sync? Why is the unit thick enough to support Optical Audio Out, but it is no longer included? Why is 4K (UHD) and HDMI 2.0 not supported? Why did Apple not release their own optional game controller to kick things off? And of course, why no silver, space gray, gold versions? Did the crew that built the MacBook with one port also lend their hand with Apple TV? It is almost as if Apple is launching their very own Area 51 product. Here’s to trying my hand at unraveling some curious areas of Apple TV.
First there was “Antenna-Gate”, with the iPhone 4 allegedly having signal strength issues. Then there was “Bend-Gate”, with claims the iPhone 6 bent far too easily. Now we wait for for the anti-Apple-anything crowd to concoct their latest FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), claims about iPhone 6s and 6s Plus — and it may have just arrived.
Hot on the heels of the iPhone 4’s arrival, Consumer Reports issued a review of the phone, claiming it had serious antenna issues. Then, CEO Steve Jobs cut his family vacation short to host a special media event, showing how truly stunning Apple’s antenna testing was, while showcasing that virtually every smartphone in the industry would suffer signal strength issues when held in any number of ways. Jobs named the dust-up “Antenna-Gate” while exposing Consumer Reports as desperate company, glomming onto Apple's massive iPhone popularity in a search for relevance.
On Friday, Apple launched the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. While both phones may look like their predecessors, let me suggest, there is more than meets the eye. While the external shape is the same, Apple did add a new color. They also moved to a stronger aluminum used to construct iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, so that pocket bending should be a thing of the past.
What I was particularly interested in though, was not the new aluminum, new color, extra memory or faster processor. What piqued my interest was 3D Touch. Over the weekend I visited the Fashion Island Apple Store in Irvine, CA to give the new iPhones a spin. What I experienced was impressive. 3D Touch is more than a gimmick, it is something that is quite useful, and I wish my iPhone 6 could take advantage. Whether at the home screen level or within an App, 3D Touch a quicker (and more fun) way to access more detailed information. For example, below are a few screen shots of 3D Touch in action.
Apple’s new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus officially begins arriving today for those who have put in pre-orders, and a lot of those orders figure to be purchased via Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program. But exactly how does it work, and what are the details of the program?
Apple has set of a firestorm of activity in the cellular carrier space. Apple’s $32 a month iPhone Upgrade Program has carriers in a panic, and for good reason. For $32 a month, a new iPhone 6s can be had now, and every year, the latest and greatest iPhone can be had. All one needs to do is agree to continue the payment program for a 24 month period. At some point, for those that want to move away from an iPhone can do so, they'll just need to pay off the stream of payments to Apple and turn the iPhone back in, or just ride out their iPhone for 2 full years.
The reason carriers are busy countering Apple’s offer is simple. Apple’s program is about to turn carriers into dumb pipes, the likes we have not seen since the original iPhone. Apple uses unlocked iPhones. Thus, anyone signing up with Apple’s iPhone program can join month-to-month carrier programs, and jump ship to whomever they want, whenever they want. Maybe it is AT&T today, but tomorrow T-Mobile delivers a cheaper monthly program with more data and unlimited music streaming. No problem. Next month just jump onboard with T-Mobile. Six months later Sprint offers an unlimited everything plan? Go for it.
iPhone, Apple Watch, iPad — all the non-OS X products in Apple’s stable have been revved and the product line is clean and clear. For example, there is no product overlap between an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus — or even between those and the previous iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Also there is no overlap between iPad models or between Apple Watch models. Within each of these product lines if you have a specific need or want, the choice of which product is right for you is fairly straightforward. That is unless you are in the market for an OS X powered notebook.
This is where things get messy and rather quickly. Usually bigger size means more money. But not with Apple’s notebooks. There is the entry model MacBook Air that leads the pac for price conscious consumers starting under $1,000 USD. But both standard 13" MacBook Air models are at least $100 less expensive than the smaller, entry level 12" MacBook. The MacBook offers more state-of-the-art technology than the Air’s (new keyboard, Force Touch trackpad, retina display, USB-C and multiple colors), but in consumer’s minds 12" is less than 13" so shouldn’t it cost less? Making matters worse, if a customer asks which one is more powerful, confusion can quickly ensue. The MacBook and MacBook Air use different chips, thus the MacBook Air is more powerful, and has powerful upgrade options, than the lightweight MacBook.
Android smartphones continue to fall behind Apple's iPhone technology at an alarming rate. Here is a quick look at how Apple has coerced Google and their hardware vendors to spend countless billions playing catchup, forced into following Apple’s lead. The Android + 3rd party hardware attempts at deliver powerful, yet simple Apple-like solutions continue to stumble, leaving the duopoly further behind Apple’s superior iPhone hardware + software integration and execution.
Multi-Touch: It was the original 3.5" multi-touch iPhone that sent the entire smartphone market back to the drawing board. Android quickly copied Apple’s home screen, icons, along with look and feel, while Samsung and others dropped physical keyboards, integrating lower quality touch technologies. HTC quickly dropped the idea of pushing the stylus as the best method for smartphone interaction in favor of touch. Fast forward to today and any number of Android smartphones still lack the visceral feel of Apple’s touch technology. A copy is never as good as the original.
A lot has been said of the latest Apple TV, since Eddie Cue performed its unveiling last week. Sporting many new features, a chief complaint has been the devise's lack of support for 4K (UHD) video. In light of the fact that Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus support 4K video recording out of the box, it would seem a logical, if not easy move for Apple to support 4K for its latest Apple TV. What exactly is holding back Apple TV from including 4K? Technically, nothing.
Apple TV’s A8 processor is capable of supporting 4K video playback, but the potential for confusion and lack of overall great experience would create disappointment — or worse frustration. 4K gaming would not be supported, nor would 4K apps. In short, the only advantage of a 4K capable Apple TV would be streaming a few titles from the likes of Netflix. Summer 4K TV shipments — not — just reached 14% of the overall TV market early summer, and is not expected to reach the 50% range of TV sales until well into 2017. Numbers alone indicate 4K is not necessary, but it would act more as a sexy check box for those thinking they need it (even if they don’t have a 4K TV).
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will be available in less than a week, thus the big questions is, “Will you get one?” For iPhone 4, 4s, 5 or 5s owners this is going to be a no-brainer, as the upgrade path is affordable and painless with most carriers — and now even with Apple’s own leasing program. Apple was also smart to add another color to mix, rose gold (even though it is clearly pink), to attract more buyers.
Various reports have the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus adoption rate at 20-25% of all iPhone owners. The questions is whether these iPhone owners upgrade or sit and wait for iPhone 7 with a new form factor and even more goodies. Besides adding new case colors and a charging stand to the lineup, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have 7 new features not found on the current iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
On Tuesday Apple announced updates to its Apple Watch product line this week at Apple’s Special Event held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New gold and rose gold colored Sports Edition watches have been added to the line up, as well as several new wrist bands — ranging from different colored sports bands to some very stylish (and pricey) leather bands.