As many know I’m a big supporter of Apple's technologies. The hardware, the software and their interfaces, more often than not, just work right. But the one thing I dread is having to visit any of Apple’s online stores. Whether it is the Mac App store, iTunes store or App store for iOS — I dislike them all with a passion. Apple even made getting to and using their Apple.com website store difficult to find and use. First, Apple removed “Store” from the list of categories in their main menu bar. A user must now dive into a product category, then a specific product, and then click the Buy button (bad move Apple, never get in the way of shoppers who just want to buy something).
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.
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launch has not yet officially shipped to customers, yet we cannot help but wonder what Apple could possibly do next year with iPhone 7 and 7 Plus? Apple packed so many improvements into the same iPhone 6 form factor, it seems improbable that Apple could do anything more than re-skin the device. But this is Apple, so you can bet they have more than a few upgrade ideas up their sleeves. Here’s the short list:
- Thin: Apple is likely to get back into the thin-obsession game. Some argue thinner means nothing, but no one is whining about wanting their old CRT monitor or Selectric sized keyboard form factors back. Once a case is added to iPhone, few folks complain that the iPhone itself is too thin. Apple is likely to target the thickness of an iPod touch.
- Glass on Glass: Rumors are already flying that Apple has reached out to Corning and Asahi Glass of Japan, to produce glass on glass samples. A new flex circuit technology will be incorporated to produce multi-touch abilities. The aim is to build a thinner, lighter, glass layer.
- Edge-to-Edge: While computer generated art class mock ups are usually well beyond reality and truly useful function, Apple may be about to come as close to having an edge-to-edge display as we have yet to see in any useful form factor.
- New Display: It is unlikely Apple will switch to OLED, and instead keep to its high quality, color accurate, LCD technology. But the display is likely to contain much higher resolution, while also pushing the envelope in the thin department.
- Inputs: When the iPhone 6 launched I stated the headphone jack was going to be omitted in iPhone 6s in favor of some new type of port, or the use of a lightening connector. Lightening is likely to stay, but the legacy 2.5mm headphone jack may finally be about to join tech history. Wireless for headphones seems a leap Apple may not be willing to force onto the market with iPhone 7, but an amazingly thin iPhone will require that something gives ground. The life of the 2.5mm headphone jack seems all but a foregone conclusion. It will not make the cut.
- Flush Camera: Last year I predicted the one major change between iPhone 6 ane 6s would be Apple incorporating a flush camera. Alas, that did not happen. Instead Apple has again leapfrogged the competition in image quality and overall camera capabilities. However, if thin is the new thick for iPhone 7, I will once again leap forward with the idea that a flush camera will be incorporated. How? Apple will need to widen the aperture of its camera. Apple hates compromises, but it has already compromised with a camera protrusion on the iPhone 6 and 6s. While making a flush camera with larger aperture may not be cool, it seems more than acceptable when compared to a big lens bump.
- Stereo Speakers: With the advent of the iPad Pro and its four speaker system, it is hard to argue the time has come for a big leap in iPhone sound to arrive. Count on two speakers for stereo ability in the iPhone 7.
- iOS 10: Perhaps the biggest improvement riding along an iPhone 7 launch will be iOS 10 — with enhanced interface and features that really take advantage of the higher resolution displays and power of an A10 chipset.
We could not help but wonder, with iPhone 6s now in the market, and with Samsung’s failed Galaxy series pre-counter, what could Samsung possibly launch this spring? What enhancements will they make to their flagship Galaxy S6? Here are Samsung's likely additions:
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.