The iPhone is a huge event every year for obvious reasons. More or less half the smartphone population owns an iPhone in one form or another which makes Apple the most powerful manufacturer in the mobile world.
That naturally gives way to disappointment from time to time. After all, there are only so many innovative new technologies that even Apple can come up with on a yearly basis, and, as we’ve seen over the years, Apple has a tendency to add features only when it will improve the user’s experience.
But despite a device that has a fresh operating system, new display, the most convenient wireless charging set up on the market and new camera capabilities, the one thing anyone will be talking about is 5G. What’s more, if the announcement of the latest iPhone showed us anything, it’s that the manufacturer is now bowing to the pressure of the network to include technology that does not benefit the consumer in any great way.
Giving the Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg a prime spot to talk about the American network’s service showed you all you needed to know about who is in control of the relationship. However, to state that ‘5G just got real’ just because the iPhone is now 5G compatible is a little disingenuous.
Once again we witnessed a manufacturer launch a device with no evidence of how 5G will benefit the user. Apple devoted just one section of the presentation to 5G which only covered the antenna system they are employing rather than any tangible benefits.
While the antenna technology is interesting to my inner nerd, it does not satisfy the frustrations that I have for the mobile market at this moment in time. It is equally frustrating that consumers are having to bear the brunt of the upselling and initial costs of this new technology when it is, in essence, an enterprise technology.
Apple giving Verizon a part in their latest Keynote announcement shows the priority for the moment is shifting 5G devices rather than arguing why you should buy an iPhone. I remember a time when Apple was at the bleeding edge of mobile technology, bringing the best displays, cameras and processing capabilities to an otherwise barron market.
It is true that Apple still bring all of those features throughout all of their devices but the market has now caught up and, if you’re not drawn by the brand or locked into the ecosystem, Apple’s ability to pull in sales hangs on the features that their devices have. For me at least, there is very little that stands out compared to a Samsung flagship and 5G was a real opportunity to show us what the future of smartphone usage looks like.
That future look is something we did get a glimpse of in other aspects though. My own thoughts on 5G aside, the decision to mirror the iPad Pro design is a good one in my book and the integration of MagSafe and taking the power brick out of the box is one that clearly shows where Apple’s are taking the iPhone.
In this climate (pun intended) of David Attenborough documentaries, extinction rebellion protests and dietary changes to combat radical deforestation, Apple’s decision to take the power brick and the headphones out of the box is one that makes absolute sense and mirrors their strategy when it comes to the headphone jack.
In 2016, Apple got rid of the 3.5mm jack to huge upheaval and criticism. The next year, the bluetooth headphone market grew just shy of 350 percent with AirPods coming out on top. What allowed that growth was the fact that Apple gave the consumer an alternative effectively saying “We’re taking away the headphone jack but with AirPods you won’t miss it.”
And who uses wired headphones now? Everywhere I look I see Bose 700s, AirPods, PowerBeats Pros and Samsung Buds. It may be an inconvenience initially but, to paraphrase a popular saying, once you go bluetooth, you don’t go back.
Now with charging, bringing MagSafe to the iPhone means that there is an alternative to the regular, wired charging experience that is just as reliable. The criticism I have with the Android wireless charging experience it’s that it can be slow and it usually takes two or three adjustments of the device before I can be sure it is charging which the use of magnets on MagSafe negates.
All this also paves the way for the very believable narrative that Apple is also trying to do their bit for the planet but increasing the amount of devices they can get in a box, in a pallet and in a shipping container, thus, reducing their carbon footprint.
But as with a lot of Apple events, I come away with a sense of apathy. It may be because I’m not in the ecosystem and have no intention to be but when the stream ended my initial thought wasn’t ‘wow’ it was ‘is that it’. As I say before, there is only so much Apple can do and in the current market unless you’re willing to delve into foldables, these devices will rarely be ground breaking year after year.
However that isn’t necessarily an excuse. Apple have now had the same rough design of the iPhone for four years, spanning 11 iteration of the brand and signs of a FaceID set up under the glass or the return of the fingerprint reader anywhere on the device seem to be a long way off.
It may be my own scepticism but the new features also just seemed like upgrades. MagSafe, although convenient, doesn’t add a new feature and just improves the wireless charging experience, the design hasn’t changed for three years and the physical cameras are as near as makes no difference identical to the 11 series.
All this amounts to four devices that, although adhering to the small phone lovers, are not as appealing as the previous years iPhones. In the current climate where jobs are on the line and money is tight, it’s even more important to justify every penny and I just don’t see £200 worth of technology between the devices.
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