Apple and Critic Boredom

September 13th, 2017

As you might expect, the Apple critic population will have its way with the announcements from the September 12th iPhone media event. How could it be otherwise?

But there was plenty of positive news to consider, even if most of product introductions and specs were pretty well known ahead of the event.

So there really is an iPhone X, and it does have a 5.8-inch OLED edge-to-edge display. At a resolution of 458 pixels per inch, roughly twice that of a normal retina display, Apple calls it Super Retina, which is not altogether different from what the Android smartphone makers have been doing for a while. The difference is that Apple’s brand new in-house designed GPU is without doubt powerful enough to push those pixels without the typical stalling you see on handsets from the competition.

That said, despite the promise of superior color, you probably won’t see a sharper display compared to a regular iPhone since, again, it’s retina, and thus the differences will be beyond normal visibility.

As the rumors stated, Apple’s facial recognition technology, Face ID, replaces Touch ID. It may be true that Apple had trouble getting its existing fingerprint sensor to work with the new display. Samsung had a similar problem. But while Samsung’s facial recognition is easily defeated with a digital photo, Apple is using something called TrueDepth to make a 3D map of your face, and it’s touted as being far more secure than Touch ID (compare a chance in a million to a chance in 50,000).

It goes without saying that the iPhone X will have inductive charging support, which is usually referred to as wireless charging. But the charging pads will be optional. And, as predicted, the Home button is history. Prepare to swipe up.

The critics are carping at the $999 starting price for the 64GB model; it’s $1,149 for the 256GB version. But it’s only $30 more than the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, which also comes with 64GB storage. The most expensive iPhone 8 Plus, with 256GB storage, is $949. The 128GB option is no longer available.

To be sure, the entry-level iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are both $30 more than last year. I’m sure the critics will pounce on that, too. On the other hand, if you use want a relatively cheap iPhone, consider the iPhone SE. The price for the 32GB model was reduced by $50 to $349.

That said, the USA’s largest mainstream daily newspaper curiously claims that the iPhone X is “Apple’s latest attempt at a Samsung killer. But it’s coming late.”

As your mind continues to boggle, it is a strange twist of the usual way a Samsung smartphone is presented, that it is meant to be an “iPhone killer.” So why the turnaround? Well, because the iPhone X has some features that are already present in gear from Samsung and other companies. Beyond preliminary benchmarks that indicate that even the regular iPhone 8 smokes the latest Samsung Galaxy in benchmarks, remember that the iPhone X has a facial recognition feature that actually appears to work. Two of the three biometrics in Samsung’s Galaxy S8 succumb to digital photos.

And don’t forget that, among premium smartphones, Apple sells far more product than Samsung. The latter’s advantage is confined to low-profit feature phones, or entry-level smartphones, where Apple wisely doesn’t compete.

Now if you want to buy an iPhone X, prepare to wait. Reports of production delays may be true, and while you’ll be able to place your order in late October, it won’t ship until November 3rd. The article in question complains that this puts its arrival in the middle of the holiday season, but most of us know that sales don’t really start to peak until after Thanksgiving. So much for foolish spin.

The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus will ship on September 22nd. iOS 11 will be released on September 19th, but the GM version has already been made available to developers and public beta testers. watchOS 4 and tvOS 11 are also due to arrive with the new iOS. macOS High Sierra is due on September 25th, and its GM has yet to arrive.

Now predictions about the Apple Watch Series 3 containing an LTE radio turned out to be correct. The 38mm version will start at $399, and I presume the 42mm model will be about $50 more. You can save $70 if you buy one without the cellular radio. With LTE, it shares the same phone number as your iPhone, so I suppose you can regard it as something of an extension, although you likely can’t use both at the same time.

Lest we forget, there is really no smartwatch market aside from the Apple Watch. Android Wear and other products have gone nowhere. Sales of Fitbit, once the king of wearables, have gone down. So the addition of LTE means that Apple is taking its product in a logical direction. Again, health and fitness are front and center, and Apple is evidently adding a heartbeat complication to the feature mix.

The new Apple Watch will otherwise look nearly identical to its predecessor. It ships on the same day is the iPhone 8 family.

Also as expected, the fifth generation Apple TV will offer 4K and HDR as the main improvements. A key advantage is that Apple is also including 4K streaming from different services plus a growing library of 4K movies to the mix. The competition from Amazon and Roku rely on the likes of Amazon Prime Video and Netflix to deliver such content, and there isn’t much available yet.

While I’m sure some of you will chafe at Apple’s $20 price increase for the 32GB Apple TV — $179 — there is a sweetener. A big one. Huge.

So Apple has arranged with the movie companies to offer 4K movies for the same price as HD, and, as they become available, you’ll be entitled to free upgrades from HD to 4K for your existing iTunes digital library. So while the Apple TV may cost more, you’ll save on the content, and that’s sure to make up the difference fairly quickly if you actually plan to make some purchases, such as Wonder Woman, which is due for release on September 19th.

I expect Apple Watch sales will continue to grow in light of the addition of an affordable LTE model. I’m not at all sure about the Apple TV, since you have to take the time to consider the wider availability of 4K content, and the fact that this is no price increase, compared the competition. Will customers consider the real cost before buying a streamer? I’m not at all sure.

The success of the iPhone X appears to be a sure thing. I just wonder how long it’ll take for Apple to catch up with the backlog, and whether large numbers of buyers will prefer it to the other iPhones. But it’s also likely that a starting price of $999 will be too much for many, even though monthly prices aren’t that much higher than the other models.

All in all, Apple presentation was slick and smooth, as usual, but otherwise mostly predictable.

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One Response to “Apple and Critic Boredom”

  1. DaveD says:

    There was one big surprise is that Apple will be using its own GPU in the A11 processor. I thought that changeover would come two years down the road after the announcement of dropping the PowerVR. When the AnandTech report on the A11 comes out, it will be my must read.The chip design group of Apple is on a tear as more different processors are coming out. I think Qualcomm is on Apple’s To-Do list.

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