Commentary

The new MacBook and future-shock

Some weeks it feels like timeliness isn’t one of the qualities that I am aiming for at this site. Only 17 days after the Apple event, I thought it was time to write about the new MacBook.

In an alternative universe where Mark Gurman doesn’t exist, this computer would’ve been seen as an amazing device. It is infeasibly thin and light with a great screen and tiny, tiny logic board. But we knew all about it months ago and some of the novelty has been diminished.

There are also other computers that are a similar to this tiny MacBook. Lenovo has the new Yoga 3, it is similarly thin but half a pound heavier and but with the benefit of a larger screen hi-res screen. Asus has the Zenbook UX305, which seems to have very similar specs to the Yoga. Even Dell is in this market with their new XPS 13 (also 2.6 lbs), and of course there is the Surface Pro 3 (2.4 lbs with keyboard, 1.76lbs without) or the new Chromebook Pixel (a hefty 3.3 lbs). [Sorry about the use of pounds, sometimes it’s hard to find metric weights and measures from US-centric sites.]

Apple’s MacBook is lighter than all of them (although you need to add the keyboard to the Surface Pro 3 to get it above 2 lbs). It’s is also more underpowered than most of them with the Core M processor and a single USB-C connector.

There has been a lot of noise in the tech media about the limitations of the new MacBook. Only one port, only USB-C, only Core M. Less space than a Nomad. But these complaints entirely miss the point.

This is the ultimate in thin and light laptops. It has limitations but those limitations make it what it is. These limitations are how you create a 2-pound laptop. For many people it will be too expensive or too restricted. But there will be others who will love it.

When talking to people about the Apple products announced in March there is muted excitement about the Apple Watch. Meh, they say. People are excited that it exists but don’t see any need for it in their life (yet…). The MacBook is creating real excitement amongst regular people. Maybe they can’t see the need for it in their life but given sufficient spare cash, they could probably see the need.

For many people, the Mac is now a viable replacement for a PC. In an internet connected world where a computer is used for web browsing, word processing, and storing photos and music, a Mac is just as useful as a PC and has been for years. This MacBook is perfect for many users where those everyday tasks are the only tasks performed.

It is less ideal for someone doing video editing and programming work, like me, but even for those tasks the SSD and small size are definitely a bonus, even if the Core M processor and lack of ports are not.

There will always be people who are scared by the future and will complain that change is wrong. They were loud when the iMac shipped without a floppy drive. They were there when the original MacBook Air shipped without an optical drive and only one USB drive. And they are very loud now that the new MacBook is announced with only one USB-C port that doubles as a charging port.

If this computer doesn’t work for you, don’t buy it. But don’t make a fool of yourself by claiming that it’s the worst computer ever just because it doesn’t work for you.

Apple Watch frenzy

It is now a week since Apple's "Spring Forward" event. Many column inches have been filled with discussion about the new MacBook and the Apple Watch.

I'm going to add my 2 cents here, firstly about the Watch.

Watch as Fashion

The watch is an interesting product for Apple to make. With every other type of technology product that Apple makes, they create a well-designed object with a certain set of features at a certain price. If the features and the price match what a customer is looking for, Apple have made a sale. 

The watch is different because it isn't just a technology product but also a fashion product.

I would be happy owning an iPhone, even if everyone I know were to own one. It's a good phone and looks pretty good, but usually it's hidden in my pocket. But with a watch, I want something that reflects my own style. I don't want everyone else owning the same Apple Watch.

The buying decision for a watch differs from most other technology purchases for two reasons.

Firstly, the technology needs to be compelling but it also needs to be fashionable. If I don't like the look of it, I can buy something different, or nothing at all. It's about how it looks and how it feels to me. The Apple Watch seems to me to be a beautiful object (without having seen it in person) but some people will disagree and for them that will be a deal-breaker. I might buy an ugly phone but I won't buy an ugly watch.

The other reason for buying a watch is because I want something that is somewhat unique and is going to express my personality. I don't often wear a watch at the moment but when I did, I took enjoyment from knowing that my watch was fairly unique.

So, it needs to not be ugly and not be commonplace. Apple can only manage one of these.

Simply because of the vast number of companies selling watches there are few people wearing the same watch in any given place. The Apple Watch will not benefit from this uniqueness if it gains any mass-market following at all, and for a company like Apple, they are only going to sell a product to the product if they can sell millions or tens of millions of them. 

There are two sizes of case and six colours (two of which will be rather rare because of their price). These different styles are supplemented by about twenty different bands. Everything is well-designed and beautiful but it is still Apple's Watch with a single design, no matter which virtual watch face or wrist band is showing.

Paradoxically, because of fashion, the more popular the Apple Watch, the less popular it might be. "Nobody wears the Apple Watch any more, it's too popular".

But, never underestimate Apple

The past fifteen years have shown that it never pays to underestimate Apple.

The white earbuds were a global phenomenon with many other companies jumping on the bandwagon to sell their own white earbuds. The lit-up Apple logo on laptops has become the most commonly seen laptop out in public in my part of the world. 

If any company can turn a single watch design into a mass-market product, it could be Apple.

Swatch sold the same cheap watch printed with many different designs to millions of people. Why can't Apple do that with a virtual watch face? They might even sell unique watch bands matched to the virtual faces. A Mickey Mouse watch band might not be that far away.

I wrote above that I would like to own a unique watch and the Apple Watch won't be unique. However, I also thought that I wouldn't want to be part of an army wearing white earbuds but I was wrong about that.

But, Apple still haven't sold me a convincing story of why someone would want to buy an Apple Watch, or even what it will do for the average Joe. Why do I need a $500 accessory for my $700 phone? I expect that this story will come out once the initial reviews start hitting the streets. But why isn't Apple telling this story?

On reflection, maybe I'm just not the target audience for the watch. I get a few emails a day, and a few SMS messages and phone calls a week. I have turned off the notifications for many of my apps. I'm just not overwhelmed by notifications in my life right now.

It'll be interesting to see how the Apple Watch story plays out over time. Watch this space...

 

 

WatchKit seems a bit too ugly

I have a few hats that I wear (although none of them currently pay the bills). One of those hats is developing iPhone apps. As part of that I have been looking at the WatchKit API today. I've left it a little too long since the final iPhone announcement is happening in seven hours and I'm not even close to having a working Apple Watch app yet.

My problem with the WatchKit API is that it only seems possible to create ugly apps. I've only just started looking at it and I'm not much of a designer but I'm trying to create something beautiful and all that's coming out is ugly.

Using the default settings to build an iOS 7 or iOS 8 app in Xcode creates a beautiful thing without a lot of work. Using the defaults settings to create a WatchKit app does not create something with any beauty at all. The font isn't great. It feels a bit too much like I'm designing something where the only option is the Chicago typeface from the original Mac OS.

I expect that seeing that apps in real life on an actual device, they are going to look better than on the simulator. Also, I'm sure there are going to be some great Apple Watch apps released in the next few weeks but right now I'm expecting ugly apps. A lot of ugly apps.

Taken in by the Reality Distortion Field

Apple is announcing further details about their Apple Watch tomorrow (in about eight hours). Immediately after Apple's unveiling of the Watch in September, I wrote:

The many different variations of the Apple Watch are all beautifully designed with a lot of exciting, futuristic features but I haven't been sold a story as to why I would want one. It does a lot of things that my phone will do, and to get the most out of it, I'll need to have my phone nearby anyway.

So, what's the point? I'm still not sure.

I still feel like there is a lot more to be revealed tomorrow. Currently I have no idea why I would actually want an Apple Watch.

Yet still, I want one. All I can think is that I've been taken in by the reality distortion field.

Why make a feature film with iPhone?

After reading about the movie Tangerine in an article on The Verge the other day, I was pretty interested to download Filmic Pro and give it a go.

In the article, the filmmaker said that there were four things that he needed to make the film:

The first item on that list was pretty easy since I already had an iPhone. I was 25% of the way to becoming a filmmaker.

The second item was also easy. I could go to the app store and pay $7.99 for Filmic Pro.

The final two items were a bit more difficult. A Steadicam Smoothee is about $150, with other items from the company running all the way into thousands of dollars. I have no idea what sort of stabilizer they used. An anamorphic lens from Moondog isn’t that expensive but is still about $160.

So, I’ve spent my $7.99 and I’m now 50% of the way towards being a filmmaker. (Although I also need a way to record sound, lighting, a script, crew, editing, and catering. Don’t forget the catering.) It gets more expensive than just having an iPhone.

In the comments on The Verge article, there were a lot of cynics. That’s where cynics live on the internet. Many of them were claiming that the iPhone was just a bit of a marketing gimmick, it didn’t really reduce the cost of filming and if you’re going to use an iPhone, why not use something like a Sony RX-10 or an Android phone that would record 4k video. Or even just a DSLR.

The comments did make me wonder how much of a marketing gimmick using an iPhone is. Obviously everyone knows what an iPhone is, whereas a Sony RX-10 or Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a little more obscure. That helps when trying to sell a movie.

I think that there are three reasons why the iPhone was used for the filming instead of any other type of point-and-shoot camera:

  1. software: the iPhone (and any other smartphone) is entirely run by software. If the built-in software isn’t good enough, the user can run their own apps. Out of the box, the iPhone doesn’t support 24p video but can with the addition of Filmic Pro. I expect that there is a similar solution for Android too.
  2. decent camera: Apple has put a lot of effort into ensuring that the iPhone contains a good camera. Other smartphone makers also treat the quality of the camera as a priority, with a number of 4k capable smartphones out there (but do you really want to record 4k video on a smartphone?)
  3. market size: Apple sold almost 200 million iPhone in 2014. Because Apple only has three or four different models for sales at any time, third party company can create accessories for the iPhone at a scale that isn’t economic for other companies. There are probably hundreds of millions of Android phones sold every year but this is split amongst dozens of different models and brands. Camera companies only sold about 60 million cameras last year. This is split over many brands and models and sales are dropping fast as smartphones overtake point-and-shoot cameras. The size of the market means that accessories like the Steadicam Smoothee and Moondog lenses are created at a reasonable price.

So why was it used instead of a proper camera or even a DSLR?

I think the cost angle really does hold up here. Mostly.

As is the case with many technical fields, paying more money will either improve the quality of the output or reduce the work required to get the same output (or both, obviously). My DSLR camera makes it much easier to get the same shot because the controls are right at my fingertips. It also takes better shots in low-light than my old camera.

To hire a decent cinema camera, you might be looking at $500 per day or more (all these figures are educated guesses but hopefully in the right ballpark). This will be operated by people who are being paid $500 per day as well. Plus there will be other support people and actors being paid hundreds of dollars per day (unless you’re on a really, really tight budget). This means that the equipment is a small fraction of the overall budget.

An iPhone with Filmic Pro isn’t that easy to get great results from and is a bit more fiddly than a trained operator using a proper camera. So, a film shoot using an iPhone might be more time-consuming. This adds up when a film crew are charging by the hour.

Overall, your budget isn’t going to be cut from $10,000 per day to $10 per day just by using iPhones. But it might be reduced by a few hundred dollars a day for a product that is only slightly worse.

Anyway, I'm pretty happy with Filmic Pro so far. The version I downloaded was a little buggy but with a new update today hopefully the issues that I had will be solved. It was also free thanks to an iTunes gift card I received for Christmas. I'll see how it goes in the next few weeks. You never know, I might even buy a Steadicam and anamorphic lens.

TUAW is shutting down

It seems that AOL has decided to shut down The Unofficial Apple Weblog and fold it into Engadget.

I can’t that I’m terribly surprised by that. It looks like AOL has successfully ruined another blog site.

TUAW always used to be the reliable Apple website that I went to for news. Now, I’m more likely to be looking at MacRumors, The Verge (despite the click-bait) and Ars Technica. And, of course, Daring Fireball.

TUAW, and the other AOL property, Engadget, barely get a look from me now.

Thanks for the good times, TUAW, but those good times are well in the past now.

Snapchat. Huh?

I've been hearing more and more about Snapchat over the past few months. I've finally downloaded it today (I'm mikeybycrikey) after reading about Jerome Jarre.

The problem is that I'm not 19 years old and I don't know what to do with it. Suggestions on a postcard, or whatever the modern equivalent is.

Amazing quarter of sales from Apple

Apple made a record profit for the December quarter in 2014 (Q1 2015), with sales of 74.5 million iPhones and profit of $18 billion.

These are just staggering figures. 1% of the world's population bought an iPhone last quarter. That's 9.5 iPhones sold every second during the quarter. And a profit of $2300 every second too. Every second!

There has never been a company as profitable as Apple is today. Now imagine going back 15 years and telling someone that.

 

Am I Charlie? Suis-je Charlie?

After the tragic shooting in Paris on Wednesday, there has been a wave of support around the world for Charlie Hebdo.

Je suis Charlie. I am Charlie.

But what does that even mean? Am I really Charlie? What have I ever done to support free speech and reject tyranny.

As has become the custom after any atrocity, a hashtag is born. Remember #bringbackourgirls? Did you do anything other than just retweet it? I didn’t.

What about #jesuischarlie then?

So far, I’ve refrained from tweeting about it because I’m not Charlie.

I haven’t ever really done anything to promote free speech or freedom of expression.

I live in a comfortable bubble in a safe Western democracy. I program computers and write a blog. I barely leave the safety of my keyboard.

I take my safety a little for granted. Maybe it’s time to change that.

A hashtag is easy but it won’t change the world.

"We've got hurt feelings": St. Louis Police

Slightly off-topic but this one got me a bit worked up.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association has got hurt feelings. After a Ferguson police officer killed a member of the local community, it seems like the local police are upset because some local NFL players made it publicly known that maybe police shouldn't shoot people.

It's becoming obvious (although maybe not to the racists that I've started blocking on Twitter) that police deaths in the United States are a major problem. In a country where many police forces use the motto "To Protect and to Serve", they seem to be failing in their duty of protecting and serving the people.

Interestingly, it seems that there are actually two police organisations in St Louis. There are the tone-deaf people at the St. Louis Police Officers Association, and you'll never believe what the other organisation is called: the Ethical Society of Police, who might even actually have some ethics.

 

 

 

Quitting iPhone apps as a habit

I've noticed more and more people around me habitually quitting iOS apps on their iPhones. They  will quit every single app until there is nothing left in the task switcher.

As far as I'm aware, this is rather unnecessary but maybe there are some reasons that people have that I'm not aware of. Is it trying to clean everything up? Is it to combat performance issues?

If you know anything about this then get in touch and let me know. Hopefully we can improve lives together.

Why is it so hard to buy a computer from Dell?

This week, on a whim, I decided to look at the Dell website to see what they offer. I'm looking at getting a new Mac laptop sometime soon-ish when the funds allow, but it's always good to keep an eye on what else is out there. 

After looking at the Dell site, I don't understand how they manage to sell anything.

I'm reasonably up-to-date with what is going on in the technology sphere but Dell's computers just mean nothing to me.

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#GamerGate is over. It's just #MisogynistGate now

I've spent a lot of time over the past few weeks reading Twitter and internet articles about GamerGate. I decided after reading more articles in the past couple of days that it just isn't a real thing.

It never was real. 

The misogyny is real, but the other side of the argument about "fairness in gaming journalism" is just make-believe. It is just invented balance like the climate change argument (climate change is real, get over it), and like on Fox News. 

It's a waste of time for everyone and I'm going to waste no more time on it.

The argument goes that the origin of GamerGate was about trying to reduce bias in the gaming media and lessen the close relationship between gaming media and games publishers. However, of the targets in this PR battle, how many of them are actually journalists? Zoe Quinn? Not a journalist. Anita Sarkeesian? Not a journalist. Brianna Wu? Not a journalist. See a pattern here?

We're all humans and humans like to find patterns in things. The obvious pattern that all these targets are women is pretty easy to spot. 

If you're really interested in ethics in journalism, how about you boycott some of the gaming media that are allegedly so unethical? They probably won't be sad to see you go. I've seen no real evidence that this corruption actually exists. 

However, the hatred is real and the death threats are real too. Death threats have nothing to do with promoting ethics in journalism. These are not "false flag" (yuck) events as I'm pretty sure all of these women have better things to do than invent death threats.

The views about this are so entrenched on both sides that no article is going to change anyone's opinion. But if you support GamerGate, what have you done that actually helps to support ethical journalism?

#GamerGate is over. This is just #MisogynistGate. It has gone on too long now. 

[Insert bad hello 'Ello pun here]

I've been hearing a lot of talk about Ello over the past few days so I thought I should write about it. I expect that if I look back at this post in 12 months, most of what I write here is going to be wrong but that's what you get when looking into the future.

At the moment, the internet trend-setters are going crazy about Ello as a sort of anti-Facebook with a monospaced font. The company has got a manifesto as if that'll prevent the from doing anything bad in the future.

It's a little unclear to me what Ello actually is or what it will turn into but I've requested an invitation and we'll see what happens. 

There seem to be two major problems with Ello as I see it.

Firstly, they don't really have a business model. Ello has specifically ruled out advertising and user data which is noble but won't pay the bills. The plan for keeping the company afloat is to sell "special features" to users but I've got no idea what the special features are going to be. 

Having special features for sale reminds me of Kevin Kelly's 1000 True Fans but on a much larger scale. It is going to cost a lot to keep a social network afloat, and people aren't going to be willing to spend the $100 that Kelly's "true fans" would spend. I expect that the minimum the company will need is a million fans each paying $10 a year. It might work.

There are some people who are pretty crazy about Tumblr and Wordpress. Some were crazy about LiveJournal and MySpace and other camelCase products. Maybe Ello would find enough income to survive.

On the other hand, by setting themselves up as the anti-Facebook and the anti-Twitter, they are also cutting themselves off from the other dot-com business model that was followed by Tumblr and Instagram: get bought by a big internet company. If Ello were to be bought by Facebook or even Google at some point in the future, then the users would be justifiably let-down.

Secondly, as with any social network, it relies on the network effect. My friends or other people I care about need to be there. Among other things, that is what killed off App.net. It's a good reason why no one uses Google Plus and Diaspora. Have you even heard of Diaspora?

If they can attract sufficient sufficient users, they might have a chance. Apparently they were getting 40,000 signup requests an hour on Friday last week so that's promising.

After having a quick look around the site, I think that it looks more like Twitter crossed with Tumblr rather than Facebook. But maybe that is partly because Facebook has move so far from what it was to now just be a home for click bait articles. 

If they are pitching themselves as an alternative to Facebook, they really need to be significantly better than Facebook to really make a difference. Google Plus was arguably better than Facebook, but only a little better.

Any new service needs to be better by a significant margin to warrant the switch.

For watching movies at home, DVD was about a hundred times better than VHS. Consumers switched to it very quickly as the price of players dropped. But Blu-ray was only a marginal upgrade on DVD (unless picture quality was very important to you) so it has had a much slower adoption curve. It is the same with social networks. Google Plus and Diaspora are Blu-ray to Facebook and Twitter's DVD.

There is certainly room for more than one social network, as the existence of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube and others can attest. All the successful social networks are distinct in what they offer. Can Ello be different enough by just being a better anti-Facebook? I'm doubtful.

Is there more to the Apple Watch?

I've just read John Gruber's article about the Apple Watch. Unsurprisingly it's a good read. He has some interesting thoughts in terms of pricing which I think are probably realistic.

Instead of usual $100 increments ($349, $449, $549), he is more predicting factor of ten increments ($103, $104, $105). And a rabid response from the tech press:

When the prices of the steel and (especially) gold Apple Watches are announced, I expect the tech press to have the biggest collective shit-fit in the history of Apple-versus-the-standard-tech-industry shit-fits. The utilitarian mindset that asks “Why would anyone waste money on a gold watch?” isn’t going to be able to come to grips with what Apple is doing here. 

Also, he is expecting Apple to show something more significant early next year when the final product is released:

But I get the impression that they’ve only shown us the tip of the functional iceberg, simply because they wanted to reveal the hardware — particularly the digital crown — on their own terms. The software they can keep secret longer, because it doesn’t enter the hands of the Asian supply chain.

I accept that there is likely to be more features when the final product is released. However, I would also expect to have been sold on why the device would change my life (like the iPod, iPhone and iPad). As I said in my piece on the Apple watch, this was missing last week, and I'm pretty sure it'll be missing next year.

There are clearly going to be more unannounced Apple Watch features but I don't think they are going to get me excited. I'm hoping that I'm wrong about this but my wallet is hoping that I'm right. 

 

My take on Apple's Sept 2014 announcements

After setting up this blog a couple of months ago, the posts today are probably where my clear Apple bias will show through.

Apple had their September keynote event today where they announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay and Apple Watch. It's probably the most solid announcement they have had for for years.

I've written an article about each of the announcements:

Everything announced today was known to some degree through rumour sites so nothing was a huge surprise, but it's always much more coherent when Apple presents it rather than weeks of disjointed rumours. 

Overall, I think the winner here was Apple Pay. It's a new product category, well defined and hopefully easy to use. This could be a slow burner that turns into something amazing over the next few years.

The iPhone looks great. It's a great leap from the previous iteration but there is nothing revolutionary here. If you think back a year or two, would you really have picked that the iPhone 6 would be as amazing as what has been announced today? I certainly wouldn't. But still just evolutionary.

The Apple Watch also looks pretty good but I just can't see a compelling reason to buy one at the moment. It provides a few useful features but nothing that I can't do by just taking the phone out of my pocket. Also, a watch is something that I'm going to buy that might last me more than just 12 months. This looks like a first generation product where next year's iWatch is going to be  significantly better and then it might be time to buy in.

Interestingly big phones, payment with NFC and smart-watches have all been done before by Google or other Android hardware companies. Apple often isn't the first company to develop a certain technology—but they will refine what out there already and enhance it.

These are my initial thoughts. I'm not likely to see an iPhone or Apple Watch in the flesh for a while and since I'm not in the US I'm unlikely to try out Apple Pay anytime soon either. Let's see how these products go upon release. 

The world is changing and as has been the custom in recent years, Apple is refining what currently exists and taking it to the next level. But are they leading in the right direction?

Why would I want an Apple Watch? I don't know either

This week Apple announced their "one more thing". A smartwatch.

Uncharacteristically for Apple, I am none the wiser as to why I might want to own a smart watch, especially one from Apple. As Ben Thompson described in his article about the Apple Watch, in his keynotes Steve Jobs sold customers on the story of why someone may wish to buy the iPod, iPhone and iPad. That story was completely missing for the Apple Watch on Tuesday.

Also missing on Tuesday was a bit of that Wow factor. With the iPhone and the iPad (and maybe the iPod too but I don't remember back that far) there was an element of disbelief at the announcement. The iPhone seemed to be so far ahead of its time, yet so obvious in retrospect, that it felt like we had suddenly come into the future. Likewise with the iPad Apple somehow managed to take a computer and condense it into a tiny package for a reasonable price. It seemed impossible.

The Apple Watch just seems like an obvious evolution of existing technologies. It doesn't feel like the future but instead the 1950s version of the future. 

Where's my story?

The many different variations of the Apple Watch are all beautifully designed with a lot of exciting, futuristic features but I haven't been sold a story as to why I would want one. It does a lot of things that my phone will do, and to get the most out of it, I'll need to have my phone nearby anyway.

So, what's the point? I'm still not sure.

Personally, I haven't worn a watch for about 5 years. I own a nice analogue watch but it is sitting in a drawer somewhere after the battery ran out. If I am to spend hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars on a smartwatch, I need to know how it'll improve my life. 

Beautiful design

It does however look like Apple have created a well thought out device that has lots of potential.

After the Samsung and Motorola Android Wear watches were released in the past few months, it became apparent that technology companies had no idea how to make a watch. They could make a single device that appeals to a particular taste. But unless you wanted to buy a smart watch and liked the particular style of the device, you weren't going buy it.

In contrast to the Android Wear devices, Apple have really understood the history and traditions of watchmaking. They have paid attention to detail like no other company would.

A great article about the physical design of the devices is this one at Hodinkee

The Apple Watch, in its own way, really pays great homage to traditional watchmaking and the environment in which horology was developed. We have to remember that the first timekeeping devices, things like sundials, were dictated by the sun and the stars, as is time to this day. The fact that Apple chose to develop two faces dedicated to the cosmos shows they are, at the very least, aware of the origins and importance of the earliest timekeeping machines, and the governing body of all time and space – the universe.

To me the different designs look interesting and I expect they are much nicer in real life than in pictures. It does look like the watch is a little too thick and rounded for my taste but again seeing it in the flesh could change that opinion. 

Watchmaking and electronics

Given that the outside of the watch is beautiful and well-made, what about the inside? I assume that horophiles appreciate the craftsmanship inside a watch as much as, if not more than, the craftsmanship on the outside. Lots of tiny parts moving in harmony.

An Apple Watch just doesn't have the same sort of craftsmanship on the inside. The moving parts are a million times smaller and the work that has gone into making the integrated circuits is much more incredible than traditional watchmaking. But it's on such a tiny scale that we just can't appreciate it. It's a black box full of electrons rather than a work of art. 

Also I'm just not convinced about the idea of wearing a back-lit screen on my wrist that will light up like a Christmas tree on demand, even in the cinema. The benefit of a wristwatch is that I don't need to make it show me the time. The time is always there whether I rotate my wrist or just have the watch lying flat on a table. It's a backwards step from an established technology.

I also think that the watch itself looks a little too thick. In pictures it looks like it stands out a little too far from the wrist and could do with being 30% thinner. Maybe in another year or so that will be possible, although maybe it's not a problem with the actual device.

I do wonder what Apple's future plans for the Watch are. Most of the devices that Apple makes get a yearly upgrade which is the norm in the computer and phone industries. Watches are a bit different though.

I'm sure many of the well known brands release new watches every year, but often incremental changes. The Omega Seamaster was first produced in 1948, but if you were to buy one today it wouldn't look that different from the original.

Interesting concept but bring on version 2

There are still a number of things we don't know about the Watch such as size, battery life or how much magic it brings to our lives. As with many Apple devices, the magic of it can't be seen in pictures but needs to be experienced firsthand. I would need to try it out and see how it fits into my life. The actual device could prove me completely wrong about everything written here.

Overall, it looks like an interesting concept that has been well-executed but it will benefit from being out in the world and used by customers.

I'm sure the next few versions will build on what has been announced and refine the product into something very special. But maybe not just yet. 

Use your Apple Watch to take photos remotely? Don't think so

One of the features of the new Apple Watch is the ability to use it as a remote for the iPhone. In iOS 8 there is even a new timer function to let you put the phone down on a surface and let it take a photo 10 seconds later. Both are great ways of taking group photos. 

But I just don't see it working.

With the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, there were square edges that would let you put the phone down on a flat surface and take a steady photo.

What about the iPhone 6? It has nice beautiful curves on every side.

Unless you want to take a photo of the sky or the ground, the timer and the Apple Watch remote are going to be pointless with the iPhone 6. 

 

Apple Pay: this could be start of something big

In the days of Steve Jobs, Apple cynics often referred to the Reality Distortion Field when confronted by Apple keynotes. There were two reasons for that:

  • they couldn't understand how Apple created such hysteria with products that weren't really revolutionary
  • they couldn't understand why these evolutionary products were actually revolutionary.

Apple Pay is the latest example of this and I think it's going to be huge. 

Firstly, some history. Google released Google Wallet in 2011. If you look at the Google Wallet page now and read through it, you'll notice that it has many of the same features that Apple Pay has although Google struggled to sell me on what's in it for me. It lets me take all the gift cards out of my wallet by loading them into my Google Wallet, but then I also need to add a Google Wallet card into my wallet. It's sort of a Google bank account that I can send and receive money with by loading money in from...my bank account. But I've already got a bank account. And a PayPal account. And I don't need another one.

It's just not a compelling story for the customer. What's the problem that you're trying to solve? I don't really know. And how does the solution make my life better? I don't really know.

Apple, with their Reality Distortion Field, have described the problem and shown me how they plan to solve it. I can easily pay money using my credit card while only taking my phone with me. The card number is removed from the process to help make it more secure if I lose my phone.

This is a subtle difference from Google Wallet where I need to load money into a service that I don't even know if I'm ever going to use. Or that might shut down like Google Reader, or Google Buzz, or Google Wave. 

This isn't an RDF, this is simple marketing. Create a simple and compelling story for the customer about why the service is useful. Google has created a compelling story of why the technology is cool, but not why the service is useful.

There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to sign up for Google Wallet because it isn't as frictionless as Apple Pay. Also, they key technology, NFC tap-to-pay, might not even be available on any given Android phone.

Apple makes it easier because if Apple Pay is shut down in the future, they don't have any of my money stored that I would then need to reclaim. Apple is working on having a relationship with my bank or credit card provider to make it easy to set-up and use. Plus, they already have my credit card on file for iTunes, so I don't need to give them any more information than they already have.

Apple also provides additional security in the form of Touch ID. Not only can I cancel the credit card from Apple Pay if I lose my phone but the cards can't even be used without a fingerprint. This is better security than my credit cards. 

I'm a little unclear on how Apple makes money out of this. Is it simply doing this to make the iPhone platform more attractive? I'm just not sure.

This is a useful service for customers and is likely to slowly gain users and transactions over the next few years.

At the moment, this is something that only Apple or Google could pull off. Google couldn't manage it but I think Apple has got a shot.

iPhone 6: a mix of exciting and yawn... but still the best ever

It's amazing to think that with this week's announcement from Apple, we're now on the eighth iteration of the iPhone. That has gone by quickly! Each new version has been more advanced than the one before but it has all been slow and steady—a handful of new features every year. 

This is Apple's methodology for delivering new products. Keep the upgrades coming at a regular rate and stay just a little way ahead of the competition. Consumers might want 15 different sizes of iPhone, all with 4GB of memory and desktop class processors that sip power and costing $100 but it's not going to happen.

If you go back to the introduction of the second generation device, the iPhone 3G, the only real changes that it contained over the original iPhone were 3G and GPS. The 3GS introduced a faster processor ("S" for speed), more memory and a digital compass. This has carried on since 2007 with slow and steady improvements every year.

Apple are aiming to build the best $649 iPhone they can, that will work with the latest version of iOS and their app ecosystem. Changes to the physical phone happen slowly partly because the software needs to keep up.

The change to the taller iPhone 5 two years ago was a fairly straightforward change in iOS but taking advantage of the larger screens announced this year has involved a few more incremental changes in iOS over the past couple of years.

Firstly, AutoLayout was ported over from OS X as part of iOS 6. Now in iOS 8, size classes have simplified the process of handling different screen sizes and orientations without explicitly testing for dimensions.

Once the software was set for the future, the hardware could come along for the ride.

That's the history but the iPhone upgrade cycle took a bit of a step-change last year with the release of two models, the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 5c was really just the iPhone 5 wearing a different suit so it could be argued that it was only one new phone but it was setting the product line up for this year's release.

This year there really were two new phones, one with a 4.7" screen and the other with a larger 5.5" screen. Amusingly, the leaks and rumours were referenced by Phil Schiller in the keynote when has said "if you don't know, here's their sizes: 4.7" for iPhone 6 and 5.5" for iPhone 6 Plus".

There is very little difference internally between them. The larger phone has an optical image stabiliser and a larger battery but other than that the electronics appear to be the same. 

So, after years of having tech pundits demanding a larger iPhone, it's finally here. But the foundations for it have been made for a least the past couple of years. Probably even longer inside Apple.

As Apple have always said, "this is the best iPhone that we've ever made". That's somewhat tautological since they only make one phone but I'm pretty sure that a few times during the keynote I heard them say "this is the best phone we're ever made".

For the past couple of years, it has been debatable whether the iPhone was the best phone around, although when combined with iOS the iPhone was much harder to beat. Now, it looks like the iPhone once again really is the best phone you can buy. If I hadn't just bought myself an iPhone 5s nine months ago, I'd probably be looking to pre-order the phone next week.