Apple Announces a Frivolous Lot -- But Little for Business
A flurry of Apple announcements point to an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, smart device market.
Apple hosted another of its legendary product announcement events in San Francisco yesterday, but there was little for enterprise users to get excited about -- except maybe on their days off. After a Carpool Karaoke session with James Corden and Tim Cook, the ever upbeat Mr. Cook took the stage to give the rundown on next-generation iPhones and Apple Watch.
The program started out with our regular dose of Apple statistics, which included:
- Apple Music, Apple's subscription music service, is now up to 17 million subscribers
- There have been 140 billion downloads from the App Store with 106% YoY growth over the past 2 months
- The App Store generates two times the revenue of the No. 2 app store (which we can assume is Google Play, though it wasn't mentioned by name -- not at an Apple event)
- And later we learned that over 1 billion iPhones have been sold
The big news of the day was that Super Mario is now going to be available on the iPhone (I'm sure enterprise users have been holding their breath over that one).Do You Have the Time?
The Apple Watch was up first, and with the new version called Apple Watch Series 2, you can go jump in a lake, or a pool for that matter. Unlike the earlier version, which will now be called Apple Watch Series 1, the new model will be water resistant to a depth of 50 meters (ISO standard 22810:2010). This is actually big news for me because I'm a swimmer (2-mile workouts, 3 times a week, all free style, all flip turns). Apple will be taking preorders September 9, with initial deliveries a week later, but since the new version starts at $369, I'll probably have to wait for a birthday or Christmas (hint, hint).
The new Apple Watch does have its own GPS chip but no cellular connectivity. It will run Watch OS 3, which includes some frivolous additions like a confetti effect you can add to text messages and a useful 911 feature. If you press and hold the side button (and have your iPhone nearby), the watch will automatically place a call to 911 (or the local equivalent emergency services number) and send a notification text to your emergency contacts. Oh, and you can play Pokemon Go on it.
Apple is also introducing a Nike+ version that will deliver motivational messages like, "Are We Running Today?" The Nike+ version comes in 3 color schemes all starting at the same $369 price.You Can Call Me on My iPhone
Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP for Worldwide Marketing was called upon to introduce the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which feature the same screen sizes as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus (4.7" and 5.5"respectively) but in a much prettier case. The phones will come in 5 finishes: black, gold, silver, rose gold and a new high gloss jet black. They will also have the same starting prices as the 6s and 6s Plus ($649 and $749), but the memory options will now be 32 GB, 128 GB or 256 GB of memory, doubling the memory of the original 6s and 6s Plus models. The 6s and 6s Plus models will also be getting that same memory boost. Apple is finally retiring the anemic 16 GB models.
Apple has made a big upgrade to the camera with the new iPhone models, which includes two- 12 megapixel cameras, one with a wide angle lens and one with a telephoto. The telephoto can do 2x magnification optically, and up to 10x with software. They also feature optical stabilization, an image sensor processor, and a new portrait mode that allows you to adjust depth of field so you can have a clear image of the person but a blurry background effect. The new models will also be dust and water resistant to IP67 standard (that standard specifies water protection to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes).
As has been widely reported, there will be no analog headphone jack, but rather, headphones that plug into the Lightning connector; every iPhone 7 and 7Plus will ship with a Lightning to analog converter. Apple's Beats subsidiary will also be introducing 3 Lightning-compatible headset models.
Apple will also be introducing its own wireless headphones called AirPods. The AirPods will have a sensor so they know when they are actually in your ears, a case that includes a battery and charger that should keep them going for 24 hours, and a beamforming microphone for noise reduction. The price will be $159 with deliveries starting in late October.
Finally the new iPhone models will be powered by Apple's A10 Fusion chip. The chip features four cores, two high-performance cores and two high-efficiency cores to save battery. While real-world battery life is almost impossible to predict with any accuracy, Apple claims that on average the new models should deliver two -hours of additional life over the 6s and 6s Plus models.Let's Get Down to Business
About the only thing throughout the course of the event that had an enterprise angle to it was the new real-time collaboration capability -- though that was described in conjunction with initiatives in education. The real-time collaboration will work with iApple's iWork productivity suite. Now a group of participants can collaborate on a Pages document, a Keynote presentation or a Numbers spreadsheet. Each participant's additions or edits are identified by a different colored bubble. (This is all nice, but I don't think anyone in Microsoft's Office group will be losing any sleep over this.)
So just as predicted, this is another off year in iPhone land. All of this stuff is great, but these are clearly evolutionary rather than revolutionary announcements. Probably the biggest hit will be the sleek new physical design, particularly with the glossy jet black finish. Of course, if the biggest news is the paint job, there isn't a lot of big news. Apple will probably catch the most flack for dumping the analog audio jack.
As I have been writing about for the past few years, we are clearly on a plateau in the smart device market; so incremental improvements are all we are likely to see in the next few years. That's going to be tough on Apple and the other device manufacturers as incremental improvements don't drive customers into the stores. My iPhone 6 is two years old now and I don't feel any compelling urge to upgrade ... and there are lots of people out there with even older models that pretty much feel the same way.
The device market may be stagnant, but those devices are being used to access a continuously evolving set of mobile services.