The Apple Event Was a Weird Journey Through All of the Ideas Apple is Stealing
Image Credit: Stephen Lam / Getty Images
As Crave’s tech editor, whenever an Apple event is announced a sinking feeling washes over me. I know that, on that particular day, I will be spending hours with my eyes transfixed on my iPhone, because Apple insists on only broadcasting these events through iOS, desperately putting every snippet of news emanating from the event online and hoping that while I’m reporting upon the new smartphone, tablet or wearable they’re unveiling, they don’t suddenly bring Tim Cook onstage to announce something more exciting, therefore forcing me to drop everything and focus on that instead. It’s a Hellish nightmare, and means that I don’t adequately have enough time to formulate anything closely resembling an opinion regarding the hardware/software they’ve announced until the next day when the dust has settled.
So now that I’ve let what was 2 hours of a barrage of tech news sink in, I am left somewhat baffled as to the direction Apple – a revolutionary company that under the tutelage of Steve Jobs guided the tech industry into a new, far more accessible era – is headed in. While no good idea is left to go to waste in this industry, with company’s cherry-picking ideas from one another at will and doing so without so much as a “thank you,” what we witnessed during the course of yesterday’s San Francisco event was an Apple that didn’t particularly have many new ideas of its own, and rather than march headfirst into a bold new generation as they have done countless times before, they instead announced reasonable improvements to their existing lines of hardware, many of which outright snagged previously existing ideas from other companies.
Yesterday’s Apple event was 2 hours of hyperbole, permeated with a pinch of interesting announcements, but generally saw the company doing what was expected of them and nothing more. Let’s take a look at some of their bold claims:
iPhone 6S records 4K video (without an easy way to showcase it)
As pointed out to me by Crave Managing Editor John VanderSchuit, while the iPhone 6S can record in 4K ultra high-definition for the first time in the smartphone line’s history, you won’t be able to watch these videos in anything even close to approximating 4K on the device’s paltry 1344 x 750 screen (that’s 8x fewer pixels than 4K, mind you). You also won’t be able to stream them over AirPlay, or play them using the revamped A8-equipped Apple TV; neither feature 4K playback. So what exactly is Apple offering for you to view these 4K videos on? Aside from the ultra-expensive Retina 5K iMac, nothing much, unless the rumors are to be believed that the company is currently working on a 4K iMac, too.
Essentially what Apple has done is add a metaphorical bullet point onto the back of the iPhone 6S’ box, convincing you that it’s great news that the iPhone 6S can record in 4K, before you realize that unless you own a 4K monitor you’ll actually just be uploading these videos to YouTube and watching them in 1080p like the rest of us peasants. It’s a welcome new addition, but one that Apple isn’t exactly supporting.
“Desktop-class” and “console-class” performance
Apple reiterated that its iPad Pro and iPhone 6S offered desktop- and console-level performance, though these two sentences absolutely deserved a little asterisk to be placed at their side, accompanied by the following: “*this isn’t actually true. At all.”
I’m not sure what desktops or consoles Apple is comparing the iPad Pro and iPhone 6S too, but it’s certainly not ones that anyone up to speed on technology is currently using. The iPad Pro admittedly looked gorgeous in the handful of screenshots Apple unveiled, but to suggest that they can keep up to speed with modern PCs and consoles is laughable at best. Apple added the caveat that the iPad Pro is “faster than 80% of PCs shipped within the past six months,” and boasts “graphics that are 90% faster,” too, but what region Apple is taking these facts from is debatable. The Pro’s new A9X and its doubling of the performance of the A8X may be impressive, but if it was as impressive as Apple made it out to be we’d no longer need our desktops, and then how would the company be able to shift their iMacs?
Apple’s Surface – I mean, “Smart” keyboard
Here’s where things started to get a little odd. During Apple’s announcement of the iPad Pro, they unveiled the “Smart Keyboard,” an add-on that is basically Microsoft’s Surface keyboard. They tried to sex it up a bit, but nope, it’s the Surface keyboard, only it’ll cost an extra $149 for iPad Pro buyers. This is $149 on top of the base price of the Pro, which starts at a huge $799 for the 32GB model, rising up to $1079 for the 128GB version.
Then Apple debuted the Apple Pencil, which actually inspired a few laughs from the audience due to its announcement sounding a little like Apple were parodying themselves, only it’s actually a completely real device that Apple attempted to pretend wasn’t a stylus before making the announcement that it would cost an extra $99.
For a stylus.
That makes the iPad Pro one Hell of a pricey proposition if you want to use it to its full potential, and when you take into account that it’s priced the same as the Surface Pro 3 which, as pointed out by TechRadar, offers more storage, a more powerful processor and doesn’t require you to spend $250 for a keyboard cover and a stylus to boot, the pricing of this thing is openly preying on those who won’t do their research and will plump with Apple by default. This isn’t an example of the forward-thinking Apple – it’s Apple taking someone’s idea and then using the popularity of their brand to charge consumers through the nose for it.
Oh, and speaking of the Apple Pencil…
Gaming on the Apple TV
Remember when Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One and kept focusing upon its TV integration, when all anyone wanted to see was some video games? The debut of the Apple TV was like an inverted version of that ill-fated presentation, with Apple claiming that they were going to revolutionize TV with what is essentially a more expensive Roku, before then showing us some games that the company insisted were console quality but anyone who’s even been within 25 square meters of a PS4 would tell you that they’re absolutely not.
Apple’s focus upon Apple TV’s gaming capabilities saw the company essentially focusing upon how users could play their mobile games on their TV, a feature that we’d already forgotten about on the Amazon Fire TV but Apple drilled it into our minds as though they were the first company to ever come up with the idea. Meanwhile, a listing on the FCC website has stated that Amazon will be bringing out a 4K version of its Fire TV, which is good because people who buy digital media players typically do so in order to watch digital media, not play Crossy Road on a 50-inch screen.
“Changing the TV experience”
Thus far services have truly revolutionized our TV-viewing experience, not devices. While the likes of Roku, Amazon Fire TV and even gaming consoles have made it easier to access subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime’s Instant Video, they haven’t truly changed how we watch TV, they’ve just made it more accessible.
This is essentially what the Apple TV is aiming to do, only for an inflated price point. However, it does offer some more features than its rivals, including Siri support which allows users to navigate the libraries of their subscribed streaming services, though the jury’s still out on just how well this works.
Some outlets who have had hands-on time with it have praised its functionality while others, such as Variety, came away with some complaints, writing: “Siri also stumbled when asked to show TV shows from ABC, something an Apple employee attributed to the fact that the demo was optimized for movies. Also notable: Siri wasn’t actually that smart about connecting the dots. Follow-up questions have to start with certain keywords, otherwise Siri thinks it’s a new question. Launching an app or game requires users to use the word “open,” and not “go to.” And the MLB app wouldn’t open, just because I said “Open MLB.tv,” not “Open At Bat.”
“Apple CEO Tim Cook said Wednesday that no one had changed the TV experience – and the new Apple TV doesn’t really change it either.”
With that being said, the rewind and fast-forward options using the Apple TV’s remote and Siri look handy, though perhaps not worth the $50 – $100 more Apple wants to charge its users above the price tag of the likes of the Roku 3.
Apple’s immediate future
The walls are hardly crashing down on top of Apple following this week’s event, and there are more than likely many who are excited by what they’ve offered, such as the custom Hermes faces for the Apple Watch, the 12 megapixel camera for the iPhone 6S, and the Adobe apps for the iPad Pro that seem like they’ll be a dream come true for those within the creative industry, but the majority of what was displayed throughout the duration of its two hours wasn’t indicative of the ingenuity we’ve come to expect from the company. Instead, it was a run through of new features that the marketplace isn’t exactly clamoring for (playing iOS games using your TV), exaggerated claims that no one believes and ideas that they’ve straight-up nabbed from companies such as Microsoft, given a different name and slapped a larger price tag on them.
There will be those who will say that Apple’s various misfires during this Apple event don’t matter because of their long history of pushing the envelope, but that these underwhelming announcements have been made during a year when the company also tried to convince us that a digital radio station was somehow a music revolution, suggests that the tech giant might just be running out of ideas. This is in no way me throwing my hat in the ring and joining in with the reactionary naysayers who believe Apple is always one failure away from hitting rock bottom, but I am saying that Apple was known for being a company that led us into the future, and their next line of products doesn’t feel like a bold step forward.