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The Apple Media Event Report: Let the Silliness Begin

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.