The Apple Media Event Report: Let the Silliness Begin

September 11th, 2014

Ahead of Tuesday’s Apple media shindig, the skeptics were claiming that Apple was in disarray, and anything less than a grand slam would be a failure. They gave us chapter and verse on what Apple had to do to stay credible and survive, forgetting that the credibility of some of the critics might just be the real question.

So we have the example of one commentator, who shall remain unnamed and not linked, who claimed that the iPhone 6 was just more of the same, using components taken from the parts bin. Not mentioned was the fact that the mainstream model and the iPhone 6 Plus both use the same A8 and M8 chips, NFC, and other components, so basic performance capabilities out to be essentially the same, although twice as many pixels need to be moved around on the Plus. The major hardware differences, beyond the displays and screen resolutions, are optical image stabilization and a beefier battery for the Plus. Parts bin my eye!

Worse, the columnist didn’t even get the specs right, imagining that the iPhone 6 limited you to 720p videos. The specs specifically state both models offer 1080p video at both 30 and 60 fps.

As usual, some sites reviewed the new iPhones on the basis of known specs, rather than how well they work in the real world. This is the same mistake usually made by commentators who never seem to get Apple, and continue to want to judge the company in ways that superficially favor the competition. One article claimed that the Samsung Galaxy S5 was the one to beat, although reception has been decidedly lukewarm. Nowhere was it mentioned that the Samsung’s fingerprint sensor is barely functional. The iPhone 6 series depends on Touch ID to perform some of its magic, including authorizing Apple Pay transactions. That would be impossible on a Galaxy S5 because you’d have to swipe the button sensor over and over with no guarantee of success.

Besides, how can you possibly review a product that has not, in fact, been released? True, some journalists already have one or both versions of the iPhone 6 in hand, and the reviews will be published next week. Once those reviews, and actual benchmarks appear, there will be genuine comparisons. But not now.

The skepticism about Apple Pay is predictable. It’s a new service, and previous mobile payment schemes from Google and other companies have largely failed. Apple’s advantage is to build a rich ecosystem that includes the hardware components, software, enhanced security and, most important, credit card companies, banks and retailers. If everything works as advertised, with relatively few glitches at the checkout counter, tens of millions of users will be ready to use Apple Pay for mobile and online commerce as they acquire new iPhones. That could jump start the industry, and push more people into considering an iPhone or Apple Watch above that the competition offers.

But it’s a long-range plan. As older iPhones that do not support Apple Pay are retired, the user base will continue to soar. And the rest of the mobile handset industry will be left on the sidelines, since Apple will not open its technology to other hardware makers. Still, it’s an experiment, but the potential is tremendous.

That takes us to the Apple Watch. Again the skeptics assert that we don’t need yet another mobile accessory, that people by and large have given up on wristwatches. Besides, existing smartwatches haven’t really done so well, so where does Apple have the temerity to believe that their gadget will be different?

Besides, isn’t a $349 starting price a bit much? It’s almost like paying $399 for a portable digital music player, but we all know how that turned out.

True, the Apple Watch is likely to get real expensive as you move up the product line, and I read suggestions that the 18-karat gold versions may carry five figure price tags, typical of fine jewelry. But customers will have choices for many budgets, and enough options to make one their own. Just starting with two sizes — the so-called men’s and women’s models although they aren’t identified that way — makes them more useful than existing gear.

The other skeptical voice is about battery life. Apple implies it’s one day in mentioning nightly charging. Further, it’s reported they are working to improve battery life ahead of the early 2015 release date. I suppose power efficiencies and better batteries might give it up to two days use under normal use, whatever that’s supposed to be, but I’ll make no predictions.

Besides, there will ultimately be an Apple Watch Two, and Apple Watch Three, and so on and so forth. The technology is young, and Apple doesn’t enter a new market without long range plans. Whatever shortcomings appear in the first version will be massaged away as development continues.

Sure, it may well be true that the Apple Watch won’t sell in near the quantities as the iPhone, or even the iPad for that matter. But being heads and shoulders above the rest might move the nascent smartwatch market to far higher levels, whatever they might be. Regardless, Apple doesn’t have to sell 50 million of them a year to be successful.

Now the real value of the new gadgets and services won’t be clear until they are actually available. That makes sense to me, although some might have other points of view.

Special Note to Our Readers: I’m sad to report that the print version of IDG’s Macworld — one of the original Mac magazines — is being discontinued. There will still be an online version, but most of the bylines with which you are familiar will no longer be there. They are in the process of being laid off. As some of you know, I wrote for Macworld for a while during the 1990s, only to switch to the main rival, MacUser, a few months before it folded and was absorbed into Macworld. Thus continues the march from print to web.

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13 Responses to “The Apple Media Event Report: Let the Silliness Begin”

  1. Ted Schroeder says:

    For me, the worst offender is Brian X. Chen of the New York Times. I guess they’ve given up on fact-checking over there. I was particularly offended by this statement:

    “For years, Apple has offered Internet services like email and online calendars. But Tuesday, with the introduction of health-monitoring technology and a new service that will allow people to buy things wirelessly with some Apple devices, the Cupertino, Calif., company positioned itself as a caretaker of valuable personal information, like credit card numbers and heart rates.”


    I guess that the hundreds of millions of credit card numbers from iTunes and the App Store don’t count.

  2. DaveD says:

    Not going to be reading the “what ifs” now about the new iPhones/Apple watches, and new services. Time will tell and I can wait.

    About the demise of the print version of Macworld…

    Was shocked to learn about the layoffs the day after as their live blog of the Apple yesterday. I always preferred the Macworld live-blog team of Jason Snell, Dan Moren and company reporting and commenting yesterday. I read Jason Snell’s piece on his situation and future. It was a different place in the late nineties getting my Macworld in the mail. Unfortunately, I had canceled my subscription long ago and with the World Wide Web, many other businesses have gone or are going away. Never easy for those who have to look for new means to make a living. I do visit Macworld site from time to time mostly to read the The Macalope, Mac Gems, Mac 911, iTunes Guy and of course, the many reviews. Not a fan of the “way too many” web designs.

    • @DaveD, You actually gave a key reason why there will be no print edition of Macworld come November, that you cancelled your subscription, and that is true for others. As circulation declined, the money people at IDG had to decide whether the venture was paying off, and when to move online. It’s too bad most of the full-time staffers are gone too. They aren’t going to have an easy time finding comparable work elsewhere in this climate. Indeed, some of the long-time staffers and contributors had actually worked at Mac|Life, which will evidently continue to be published.

      For years, I received Macworld because I bought a new Mac every year or two, and you used to get a choice of free gifts that included 12-months of the magazine. I bought a long-term subscription a couple of years back that expires in January. Guess they will owe me for two issues.


  3. Jase says:

    Macworld was always a good magazine. I wish the best for all those who are being affected by the closing down of the Magazine. I hope that the podcast and the web site will continue.

    On a different note, I think that most will be surprised by the demand for the 6 plus. Apple is going to be surprised by the percentage of customers who will opt for the 6 plus instead of the 6.

  4. Jase says:

    I’m telling you Gene, the 6 Plus is going to outstrip Apple’s most optimistic projections in terms of the percentage of all iPhones shipped. Something tells me that Apple believed that in the U.S. at least, the 6 Plus would be more of a niche product and the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 would continue to be the overwhelming choice of most American customers.

    Here is a possible early indicator that the 6 Plus is going to exceed all expectations:

  5. Macduff says:

    @Ted Schroeder,
    Those looking for insightful tech commentary from the NY Times these days may be more successful looking for shoeless leprechauns.

  6. Macduff says:

    My final comment of the day goes out @Jase’s remark “Macworld was always a good magazine.” WTF are you talking about, man? Macworld the magazine has sucked from the day the World Wide Web was born. Oh, it’s been great at covering iPhone cases but it lost ALL relevance decades ago. But hey, the 80’s were cool.

    • @Macduff, It appears that “Macduff” is using a forged address and/or IP number in his comments to us.

      Regardless, Macworld was around as a print magazine for a little over 30 years. He is free not to like the magazine, as he was free not to buy it. But the message implies it was around longer than it was.


  7. MacDuff says:

    @Gene Steinberg,
    You write: “But the message implies (Macworld) was around longer than it was.”
    Macworld 1st issue – 1984
    World Wide Web – opened to the public in 1991 (not coincidentally, the same year Macworld became bloody irrelevant)

    For the chronologically challenged, Macworld = 30 years old. WWW = 23 years old.

    You stand corrected or have been educated which, if that’s the case, then you are welcome.

    Peace to you, too.

  8. dfs says:

    In a lot of ways I won’t miss MacWorld. Over the years it’s gotten a lot more superficial in its articles and more particularly in its reviews. Once upon a time the MacWorld Lab was the gold standard of the industry, but in their later years their reviews have degenerated into 35 m. p. h. driveby puff pieces, and when something important comes out one, such as a new kind of Mac or a major OS upgrade, one goes straight to the Ars Technica site. And there was way too much uncritical cheerleading of all things Apple. Far better if MW had considered itself a serious journalistic enterprise that happened to have Apple as its newsbeat. As an editor, Jason Snell had a lot to answer for, his stewardship just wasn’t very good and probably his bad decisions did a lot to lose the kind of serious readers who would plunk down for subscriptions.

    But there are some things I’ll miss. Some of Breen’s tech tips were very helpful, as were some of the articles by the “iTunes Guy.” Less said about the Macalope the better, he should have been sent back to his forest years ago. But the contributor I will miss most of all is Dan Frakes. I remember a time, probably well over ten years ago, when I wrote a letter to the editor that MW wasn’t covering shareware, although that was a major element in the software industry. They didn’t publish my letter, but maybe what I wrote stuck in somebody’s mind since not too long thereafter they hired Frakes and let him start his Mac Gems column, from which I’ve picked up on some invaluable utilities I might otherwise have missed, which have enriched my computing experience . I’m unaware of anybody else in the computer press who has chosen to make shareware his newsbeat, so Frakes’ disappearance is going to leave a huge unfilled hole.

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