As anyone who hasn’t been unconscious all day knows, Apple introduced both its next-generation iPhones as well as its long-awaited Apple Watch today. There are detailed summaries and hands-on reviews all over the internet, so I will dispense with the summary and descriptions and simply give you my initial thoughts.
First, let me add my voice to the chorus of howls whining about the utter failure that was Apple’s live stream of today’s keynote. Despite trying over and over, I was unable to obtain anything resembling a reliable, uninterrupted stream via my Apple TV. Eventually, I was able to obtain an intermittent stream via my iPhone, but even this smaller stream was interrupted incessantly by oddly-intermingled earlier recorded clips of people milling around before the event started, and an unbelievably annoying translator (Japanese or Chinese, I believe) talking over the speaker. No attempt at live streaming would be greatly preferable to the disaster that was served on us today.
Having dispensed with my mini-rant, let’s get down to the details of today’s announcements. Which were pretty awesome.
So about this iPhone 6. Yes, I want one. There are enough improvements, from a bigger screen, to a faster chip, to a better camera, to faster WiFi, to an ambitious payment system, and beyond to make me more than willing to pre-order my iPhone 6 this Friday, for a September 19 delivery. I’m very interested in the motion-tracking and fitness features, and wonder if this will be the end of my beloved Fitbit. I suspect it will come down to reliability and the device’s ability to track treadmill miles with a reasonable accuracy. Whether it’s recommended or not, lots of people (including me) occasionally hold on to treadmills when they walk or run, and I always question whether a device (be it a new iPhone or an Apple Watch) will accurately log treadmill miles. Fitbit does a reasonable job of this. I also wonder how the iPhone fitness apps will work if you don’t have an Apple Watch (more on this below).
The only material issue surrounding my new iPhone 6 is whether I will get a slightly larger iPhone 6 or a significantly larger iPhone 6 Plus. Initially, I felt reasonably certain I would choose the larger device, but the more I think about it the more I wonder if carrying around a larger device all the time would be cumbersome. Granted, using it while stationary would be wonderful, but the idea of logging 60 or 70 miles a week on roads and treadmills with a big, honking iPhone 6 Plus in my pocket worries me.
One thing I’m certain of. The fact that the Apple Watch requires an iPhone for effective use is the biggest thing the smaller iPhone 6 has going for it. I question the effectiveness of having a smallish, elegant device on your arm if you are required to lug around a large, 6 ounce iPhone Plus in your pocket (if it will even fit). It’s a true conundrum. Sitting at my desk or on the couch- iPhone 6 Plus for sure. Traveling, running or walking- smaller may be better. Not to mention that I am very attached to my iPad Air, and typically have it close by when at home.
The bottom line: I was leaning towards the larger model, but now it’s a toss up.
So, what about the Apple Watch?
I haven’t worn a watch in many, many years, and absent Apple’s involvement, I have absolutely no desire to wear one. In fact, I hate the idea of a watch. Prior to today’s keynote, I, like many others, expected Apple’s “wearable” device to be much more Fitbit-like, and much less watch-like. I was wrong. The Apple Watch is very much a watch, albeit one with lots of features.
I like the idea of being able to “glance” at information, quickly and easily. If it works, I like the fitness aspects. I guess it would be cool to be able to communicate with my family and friends via sketches and dictated messages. Having said that, I don’t text much now, and I don’t see the Apple Watch turning me into a power-texter. I wasn’t into Dick Tracy as a kid, and I just don’t know that I want his watch now.
Of course, I wasn’t sure I wanted an iPhone, until I had one. Or a Sonos. Or all sorts of other things you have to experience to fully appreciate. And there’s no denying that the interface looks beautiful, intuitive and powerful. At the end of the day, my dislike of watches will have to battle my love of Apple for the future of my currently bare arm.
I will say that, while the Apple Watch screams cool, I don’t see anything about it that will make it a mandatory purchase for all iPhone users. Additionally, the requirement to associate an iPhone with the device limits its ability to penetrate the Android and other wearable markets. I’m sure Google and Samsung breathed audible sighs of relief at this.
I think the biggest leap forward we learned about today will end up being Apple Pay.
If it is adopted on a universal or close to universal basis, Apple Pay will be life- and commerce- changing. Clearly, someone needs to step up to the plate and address the endless security problems inherent in current credit card standards and technology. Apple changed the music business, and there is little reason to doubt it can do the same with the credit card business. While I am not much of a Passbook user currently, I am excited about the potential for my iPhone to replace both my membership cards (as few as they may be; I am profoundly unaffiliated) as well as my credit cards.
We can debate the details, but clearly today was another big day for Apple, and for current and future Apple users.