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Article: Pay at Six O’Clock

by on September 20, 2014

I didn’t have much to say about the Apple event last week that wasn’t already said by the usual band of tech writers, but after a few days, I finally had a chance to let the dust settle and think about what I had just seen and provide any notable comments, especially as as shipments of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are making their way out to people (you did preorder, didn’t you?)

Apple Event

Apple Watch

Out of everything, I find the Apple Watch to be the easiest to comment on. First, because it’s not actually going to be for sale for awhile, we have a lot of time to think about and worry and predict what the finished product will be on. Second, Apple told us quite a bit about the Watch (the name is still a bit weird for me), we have a pretty good handle on what it’s all about. I think the same could be said about the original iPhone introduction in 2007, but at that point, we have no frame of reference for Apple’s portable devices except the media-only iPods. We know how Apple’s app ecosystem works and can imagine that somehow playing into the Watch.

That being said, I’m excited about the amazing things that have been done with technology if this thing is the real deal. I always was interested in the Pebble and the various fitness bands, but knew there’d be something else on the horizon. I didn’t want to be analogous to the person who bought a Palm Treo in December 2006. I’m a bit disappointed at the pricing (or lack thereof). We already know the basic one will start at $349. My guess is that will be the “Sport” version and the smaller size. For electronics and watches, that isn’t too bad, but it’s a bit less of an impulse purchase. Furthermore, if it’s going to be like any other Apple product, the second revision will be much better and probably fix any limitations once Apple learns what people are able to use the device for. I’d rather not drop $349 or more on the next original iPad (now an iPad 2, I can get behind).

The other issue is that I haven’t regularly worn a watch in probably 15 years. I have enough devices on my desk at work to know what time it is and for the instances that I’m enroute on foot somewhere, I have my iPhone. It’s going to take a bit for me to strap a gadget on a wrist that has gotten sunburnt evenly for quite a few summers.

Apple Pay

I’m especially excited about Apple Pay—I know most places will not offer it yet, one of my credit cards will not work at launch, and I’ll probably have to get over the stigma of being that guy when I take out my phone to pay, but I like the idea of additional security with purchases. Since a number of retailers are taking their time to adopt modern technologies, I’m hoping this, paired with the chip-and-signature, will kill magnetic stripes once and for all. If it works as easily as the scan-a-barcode on Passbook, this could be a big hit—that seems to work very well when I use it at Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and as a Ticketmaster-generated electronic ticket at some sporting events.

iPhone 6

The way my two-year contract had been, I was on a “regular” model upgrade path (4, 5, 6). Although the “s” models always improved upon the original design, it was interesting to try out the new form factor and eventually share accessories with upgrading-to-the-midrange-model family members a year or two later. In this case, I was due and was most likely going to get the new iPhone unless Apple really messed things up. Fortunately, they hadn’t, and it was very appropriate for the current lineup, sharing some DNA with the iPhone 5S and the current iPads. Although I was happy with the size of the 5/5S, any extra screen real estate is welcome, so long as the device isn’t unwieldy. Apple managed to achieve this on the iPhone 6. As for the iPhone 6 Plus, there was a moment that I considered it, romanticized about only having one portable device instead of an old iPad and iPhone, but decided that I’d give 4.7” a try this go around. Perhaps by the time the iPhone 7 is introduced, I might go for a larger model.

That being said, I appreciate the changes that Apple made to the iPhones, even if they were a bit expected—better screen, better camera, better battery life. I know that kind of sounds like a broken record every year, but when you compare iPhones even across a few generations, it’s a dramatic change.

In regards to screen size/resolution, I think this was a much more seamless and usable change than the 3GS-to-4 or 4S-to-5 where you first had major pixellation, and then letter boxing. While a non-updated app scaled up on a 6 Plus might be awkward, it will still look good enough. I’m sure most developers will update, but for those who take their time, it’s a good compromise. On the other hand, I really wish Apple had offered a iPhone 6 Plus view on the iPhone 6 for landscape apps and other interface details. I’d love the extra information, and could see it being handy (at least until my eyesight really turns to crap, but that will hopefully be a few iPhone upgrades into the future). If resolution were a constraint, I’m interested why they couldn’t offer a 1920×1080 panel like other Android devices. Still, without getting into review-mode, the 6’s display is plenty sharp, even at a lower resolution.

Bonus Bono

We know Apple and music go hand-in-hand. It’s a bit odd since their products do so much across so many industries, but I guess one has to respect big events in their history. U2 showing up was not surprising, as the band has had a long relationship with Apple (iPods, Product(RED), other commercials). Personally, I thought the free album was a nice gesture—I enjoyed U2’s earlier stuff more, but a free album is always worth checking out. If it turned out to be awful, there’s always the delete button.

I can criticize Apple’s implementation of the album—adding it to an account’s “Purchased Items” is fine, although it caused it to download automatically for users that had that option checked. From a disrupting-your-music-library standpoint, I can see how this upset people. I would’ve liked to see a button on the iTunes Store for the album for free or a redemption code to get it. That feels a bit more opt-in and probably wouldn’t have caused the uproar. As for the event, the only weird part besides the little skit with Tim Cook was that the last time we heard from U2, they were cozy with RIM BlackBerry.

Departed Friends

Although not specifically addressed at the event, Apple discontinued the iPod Classic and non-Retina 13” MacBook Pro. In their various incarnations, both were arguably big parts of Apple’s recent success, and I’m a bit sad to see both go, even though it was long overdue.

This means that no iPod/iOS devices feature the 30-pin Dock Connector, hard drives, nor iconic Click Wheel. It also means that no Macs have internal optical drives, and only the iMac and Mac mini have hard drives. I’m almost willing to bet the next update (or next after that) for either goes all-flash.

Free Translation

In summary, I was very satisfied with this particular Apple event. We got some good incremental upgrades, a preview of the future, and a little bonus (if it aligns with your music tastes). One notable change was that Apple seemed more transparent, offering their own pseudo-live-blog on the home page, as well as really promoting their video stream. While I was excited about the video stream, the issues that plagued it early on were embarrassing. The company has proven with the iTunes Festival that they can stream large events across multiple types of devices. Still, heavily promoting an event and then giving users a choppy, skipping feed that had a dubbed translation screams amateur hour. Still, I think the products more than made up for this misstep and I’m already excited about the inevitable iPad/OS X Yosemite event in the near future.

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