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X Gon’ Give It To Ya

Thoughts on Apple’s iPhones 8 and iPhone X Keynote

Now that I’ve had a few days to digest it, I thought I’d share some thoughts/reactions I had to the Apple event this week. No, I wasn’t there, I was watching from afar, 3,000 miles away in New York City. So perhaps the distance gives me a different type of perspective — as odd as it sounds, I do find perceptions being slightly shifted when watching remotely as opposed to being in the room where it happens.

Plus, I want to get my unsullied (even if we did know everything that was coming) thoughts down so I can dive in and read all the other hot takes on my flight home tonight. And, of course, the devices themselves will be out next week — aside from the iPhone X — so perceptions will change yet again.

A Looming Figure

First of all, the opening tributes to Steve Jobs (both the montage and Tim Cook’s opening comments) were nice. Jobs himself famously said many times that Apple shouldn’t be a company that looks backwards. But Jobs would often say things only to later do the opposite. This was a fitting way to open the Steve Jobs Theater.

And they managed to pull out an actually not overused Jobs quote:

Some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there.

But somehow, in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation. So, we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what’s going to keep Apple, Apple, is if we keep us, us.

“Something is transmitted there” is just such a delightfully imperfect, and yet perfect line.

Retail

Next up, it was nice to see Angela Ahrendts on stage. She’s clearly kicking ass and taking names with Apple Retail. I love that they’re trying to do new flagship stores that are more customized to the city in which they reside, versus just monolithic gray shrines to Apple.

Apple Watch

Call me crazy, but I’m arguably most excited about this product line. Not because I think the addition of an LTE chip will grow the base exponentially — it will still be expensive and I suspect battery life will be more of an issue then they’re letting on — but because Apple continues to whittle their waytowards making the Apple Watch a great product.

I feel like the Apple Watch Series 2 is the product Apple should have launchedoriginally. And now I feel like the Series 3 with LTE is going to be a killer second-generation product. But it’s the third generation, of course. Apple is a step behind — though competitors are five steps behind — but catching up.

Some of the new heart data potential sounds not only amazing, but actually important. I don’t mind the current form factor at all, so I’m not bummed out that it’s not changing. The idea of putting an Apple employee in the middle of a lake on a paddle boat was perfect. It reminded me of the old “Steve calling Phil” keynote bits. It was like a sitcom, or a buddy comedy.

Why Apple killed the Series 2 and is instead offering the Series 3 and the Series 1 at a lower price point, I don’t know. Also, $249 still feels a bit rich. $199 would have been great — especially if it’s going to be a Series 1. “40 million songs streamed to your wrist” is brilliant, if clunky. It really is pretty crazy how far we’ve come from the iPod

As for the red dot — I get it, I guess. But why does it have to be clown-nose red? You’d think Apple could have come up with a nice, more subtle secondary color to highlight the LTE depending on which color the watch is. Then again, “subtle” wouldn’t showcase “I’m state of the art” in the way Apple might prefer to sell/showcase these things

Apple TV

I have a lot of thoughts on this product line. So many that I’m going to need to elaborate in another post. For now, I’ll just say that I continue to be pretty disappointed here.

Look, I like my Apple TV. It does what it does well. But it could be so much better — and pretty easily, it would seem. And this is what frustrates me. 4K support. Great. It’s not a total gimmick like 3D, but it’s not a game-changer. At least Apple is sort of acknowledging this by upgrading much of their current content to 4K at no additional cost.

Anyway, more to come.

iPhones 8

No real surprises with the iPhones 8, but I am pleasantly surprised that the specs are basically the same as the iPhone X. Also glad to see this product is getting the glass back as well. And True Tone!

The “Bionic” portion of the A11 chip name is silly. What exactly is “bionic” about the chip? The biometric stuff? Please. Are we now going to get a ridiculous moniker tied to each AX chip iteration? I look forward to the “A12 Jackhammer”.

That said, the only thing that really matters anymore about any of these phones are the customized chips. Six cores now. Insane benchmarks. Apple is pushing the state of the art here so quickly and the entire industry is benefitting as a result.

Forget about wireless charging — which isn’t exactly what the name might seem to imply, it’s more like lay-flat charging — Apple’s updates in CPUs, now GPUs, and the continual improvements to the camera are what really matter.

iPhone X

I actually wasn’t shocked by the “Ten” name. I think I would have preferred “X” as in “Ex” but whatever. At least this would seem to seal the fate of the numbers in general. Otherwise, it’s going to be awfully awkward next year with the brand new iPhone 9, which has better specs than the iPhone X (again, “Ten”), but is worse because ten is one more than nine, you see.

Or maybe we’ll get an iPhone 8S and an iPhone XS? Or maybe an iPhone 9 and an iPhone 10–2? 10.2? iPhone 10.2 Jaguar? If it comes in “Jaguar Black” I might be in. Otherwise, I’m out on the naming schemes here. We’re treading dangerously close to Microsoft territory

I’m willing to let it slide here because it is the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone — though I was shocked that this wasn’t really played up on stage, given the name! Otherwise, let’s just go back to “iPhone” and maybe have an “iPhone Plus” or even better, an “iPhone Pro” next year, shall we? It just makes more sense.

As for the device itself, it looks great. If Apple has been able to pull off the OLED work they claim — and there’s no reason to believe they haven’t — I’m 100% in. 458ppi. Yes please.

As for the notch — yikes. Look, it’s fine. I’m sure I’ll stare at my phone 80% of my waking life and learn to not see the ever-present black strip along the top of the iPhone X. But it’s still weird. Weird in the way the bottom black cutout was weird on the first crop of Android Wear devices. Would we really not have preferred an edge-to-edge top black strip? You could have fit even more sensors in there to boot, one would think…

I get it. Edge-to-edge screen! Awesome. But come on. Watching movies in landscape mode is going to be weird. David Lynch will give you no sympathy, but I will.

The best argument I’ve seen when it comes to a reason for owning the notch: branding. With no home button, how will you showcase an iPhone as an iPhone — versus, say, the same rectangle that everyone else now offers? With a call out to the notch.¹

The notch is the new camera bump. If Apple could make an iPhone without it, they would. And one assumes that one day they will, when they can put more technology behind the screen. But we’re not there yet, so it was either a notch or a not-quite-edge-to-edge screen. Apple made a choice.

FaceID seems awesome. The fact that they tried to trick it with masks, Mission: Impossible-style is more awesome. Being a twin is problematic, but at least they made a joke about this.

Animoji is pretty ridiculous. I’m 100% in.

A (starting) price point of $999 is and was entirely predictable. This will be a story for like two months and then no one will ever talk about it again. The iPhone is all of our most-used computer. The value it provides…

And actually, the number one question I’ve been asked post-keynote is if I think the November release date for the iPhone X will kill the iPhones 8 launch? That is, will people not buy the 8 at launch because they’re waiting for the X? I think there might be something to this only because the people most likely to buy the iPhone on launch day are also the ones most likely to want the X — the hardcore users.²

That said, again, it’s impressive that the same A11 chipset will be in the iPhones 8. That mixed with the lower price might be enough to push many folks over the edge this coming week. I suspect the Plus will be more susceptible to the X cannibalization concern than the iPhone 8. We’ll see.

Why Apple pre-announced the “AirPower” power strip thing available at some point in 2018, I don’t know. Why Apple keeps doing this more and more with products nowhere near ready to ship, I really don’t know.

Soooo…

Closing with Phil Schiller quoting Steve Jobs quoting Wayne Gretzky was a bit much. It’s not quite the Michael Scott bit, but it’s not, not that bit either.

Tim Cook brought it back in, bookending the event with an actual Jobs quote. And noting that with regard to the products announced today, “I think Steve would be really proud of them.”

A lot of folks are asking which of the iPhones I’ll get. Obviously, it’s the X. But I will say that the 8 is tempting because it’s out so much sooner, and again, with the same basic specs.

Another huge factor may be the battery. Apple claims the iPhone X will last two hours longer than the iPhone 7. That sounds incredible. Almost reason enough to wait for the X. Presumably this is due to the efficiencies in the OLED screen (versus LCD). But the fine print actually isn’t that fine here.

Apple notes that the iPhone 8 has roughly the same battery life as the iPhone 7. They state internet use up to 12 hours — which is what they also claim for the X. So, yes, the X has much better battery life when it comes to talk time. But who uses their phones to talk anymore? When it comes to key usage: internet, the X is actually rated slightly worse than the iPhone 8 Plus (12 hours versus 13 hours)! Not a deal breaker by any means, but never eat up everything being served without checking 🙂

There’s also a slight concern that lingers in my head that this first iteration of the iPhone X will be like so many first iterations of Apple products. That is to say, buggy. My TouchBar MacBook Pro experience doesn’t give me more confidence here. But the fact that Apple has been making iPhones for 10 years now, does.


X Gon’ Give It To Ya | M.G. Siegler

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