Opinion: I’ve seen the future of Apple’s online/offline retail experience, and it’s magic

watch-01

‘Seen’ is something of an exaggeration, but ‘had a small glimpse of’ would have made for a rather lengthy headline.

Despite the fact that I’d placed my Apple Watch order online within a few minutes of pre-orders opening, I also made a same-day appointment for a try-on. This was partly because I wanted to handle the watch right away: Apple PR does not smile on a website that consistently reports upcoming product information, so we are firmly crossed-off the list of invitees to launches. But it was also partly because I was curious how the watch would be presented by store staff.

But let me begin by backing up a step or two …  Read more

Opinion: Do we need to use the Apple Watch to know whether we want one?

top

I’m a self-confessed smartwatch skeptic. Early attempts like the original Pebble just seemed to me an extremely ugly solution in search of a problem. Some of the later models, like the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R (as well as the rather familiar-looking latest Pebble), overcame the ‘ugly’ part, but I still couldn’t see a reason to want one. I haven’t worn a watch for more than a decade, and smartwatches weren’t showing me any reason to change that.

Then along came the Apple Watch. It’s far and away the best smartwatch I’ve seen to date, and for someone deeply embedded into the Apple ecosystem, it would also be the most logical smartwatch to go for if I were to go for one at all. Yet I’m still not seeing a compelling user case–and as Benjamin observed in his own recent opinion piece, Apple doesn’t appear to be doing much to help me.

However, I’m not ready to join the ranks of those dismissing it, and there’s one very good reason for that …  Read more

Opinion: Why I think the Apple Watch marketing so far is mediocre

hero_large_2x

In the run up to the Spring Forward event, many people were expecting to see a lengthy exposition of the Apple Watch, to clarify confusion and offer a clean explanation as to how this product plays an essential role in people’s lives. What transpired was not that, at all. Apple’s event was a grab-bag procession of various product announcements, from Mac to Apple TV, concluding with a review of Watch features alongside pricing and availability details.

It did not help consolidate the vision for the Watch. Apple’s messaging for this product is almost the same as it was back in September. The company has not succinctly provided a reason for the Watch’s existence.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have one. I think the Watch is a great product with a good sales trajectory ahead of it, especially the $349 Sport models. The marketing aspects are lacking, so far. The Watch does not have clearly defined themes. Apple’s attempts at promoting three ‘tentpole’ use cases have, in my view, been conveyed poorly.

Read more

Opinion: Why I’m not the target for the new ultra-portable MacBook, but most MacBook Air owners are

new-macbook

Mark Gurman nailed it, so there were few surprises for 9to5Mac readers in yesterday’s launch of Apple’s new, ultra-portable 12-inch MacBook. But one thing we didn’t know for sure then was whether the new machine would be a cut-down, entry-level MacBook or a high-spec premium one.

The answer, we now know, is neither–or both. It’s cut-down in some respects, specced-up in others. A lower-spec CPU, but more RAM and SSD storage. A lower-spec GPU, but a higher-res screen. It loses Thunderbolt, but gains USB C. Clever things done with battery space and power-efficiency, but potential gains in battery-life wiped out by the smaller, thinner form-factor.

It makes for a slightly odd positioning in the line-up …  Read more

Opinion: Should Apple improve iPhone battery life, or just battery cases?

energislidingpowercase-7

As this photo of the original Mophie Juice Pack and Tylt’s Energi for iPhone 6 shows, iPhone battery cases haven’t changed much over the years. They’ve existed for almost as long as iPhones, and remained ubiquitous due to Apple’s continued focus on thinness over longevity. That hasn’t been great for consumers: as 9to5’s Seth Weintraub put it, people are more impacted by their phones’ battery life than an extra 2mm of thinness.

It took until 2014 for Apple to offer one iPhone model — the iPhone 6 Plus — with all-day battery life, though you have to be willing to accept a much larger footprint to get that. By comparison, the smaller and reportedly more popular iPhone 6 improved only around 7% upon the iPhone 5s in run time, so the typical iPhone user isn’t seeing much of an improvement over prior models.

With a variety of alternatives at Apple’s disposal, including some major chip improvements that are just around the corner, we wanted to pose two questions to our readership. Should Apple take a break from slimming down iPhones to focus on improving battery life? Or should it instead focus its efforts on making battery cases better? Read on for our thoughts, and share yours in the comments section below…

Read more

Opinion: Five reasons why Apple Car is happening, and five big issues to consider

Apple Car The Onion

Unless you’re Seth Weintraub, the idea that Apple would more likely develop a car than a search engine would have been controversial — as shown above, even The Onion-level comical — two weeks ago. That’s changed. Following public sightings of Apple-leased vans that looked a lot like street view mappers, numerous reports have substantially confirmed that Apple’s working on an electric car, quite possibly a self-driving car. Blessed with great insight (and sources), Seth already highlighted some of the big picture reasons Apple would get into the automotive industry before most people had accepted it as reality.

Now that the dust has settled, and even non-believers are acknowledging that an Apple Car could be coming in the not-too-distant future, it’s time to look at the big picture for Apple and the automotive industry. Below, you’ll find five big reasons the Apple Car is happening, as well as five big potential issues worth considering. Read more

Opinion: Could Apple’s Pinterest profile be an early step toward properly-curated apps?

pinterest-main

iOS and Android are completely different worlds when it comes to apps. Android is pretty much the wild west, with little control over quality or even safety (malware is commonplace). iOS, on a non-jailbroken device, is a walled garden, where Apple decides what apps can and can’t do, and which ones get approved for sale.

Yet despite that carefully-controlled approach, the App Store can still feel like a bit of a jungle. Which is why I wonder whether the Pinterest tie-in announced yesterday may offer hope for the future.

But let’s start with the problem I think needs to be solved, and that problem begins with search. Results may vary by country, and you can try the searches for yourself to compare your results with mine, but here’s what I get for a few obvious app searches …  Read more

Opinion: Why the iPhone 6 bends and why it wouldn’t be an issue if Apple addressed it properly

Last week, #BendGate took the Internet by storm. I’m sure you’re all familiar with it by now, but if not, BendGate was created from an alleged bending issue with Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. There’s a specific weak point on the inside of the chassis right beneath the volume buttons that allows it to bend very easily with pressure added in the right place. To most, it may seem like a non-issue, but a single video sparked one of the biggest viral moments this year in tech… Read more

Opinion: Beats Music is actually so good that I’m worried about Apple ruining it (à la LaLa)

Beats Music for iPhone

My first reaction to yesterday’s news that Apple is nearing the close of a $3.2 billion deal to purchase Beats Electronics was one of worry, but not for the reasons that I saw in much of the commentary from others. I’m less concerned with what Apple could have planned for the headphones business or that the price tag is so high; after all, it’s exciting to think that Apple could make a major acquisition (its largest yet) after somewhat of a quiet period. What worries me is what Apple has planned for the not-so-popular-yet subscription streaming service Beats Music… Read more

Opinion: With all of the new Apple data centers, is it time for iCloud to get serious about storage?

icloud

The Apple ecosystem is a large part of why I stick to an all-Apple line-up for my laptops, tablet and phone. iCloud is key to that, of course, providing seamless backup and syncing between devices.

Whether it’s my calendar, contacts, reminders, notes, ebooks or Safari bookmarks, all are available on all devices within a minute or two of me updating any of them. Documents I create in Pages, Numbers or Keynote are again available from any of my devices providing I choose to store them on iCloud. As I pay the extra for iTunes Match, I’m also able to stream any of my music from any device.

In some respects, Apple clearly takes the cloud seriously. It has invested massively in expanding its network of data centers, including a $1B investment in Reno, expansion in Maiden and new data centers as far afield as Hong Kong and the Netherlands. Yet, central as it is to the ecosystem, iCloud still feels a bit like it deserves the tag Steve Jobs famously applied to Apple TV: a hobby

Read more

Opinion: Can Apple maintain its $100 tier flash storage pricing for iPhones & iPads indefinitely?

main

There’s a certain marketing genius to Apple’s tiered pricing for flash storage on its iPhones and iPads. Since customers can’t add storage via a microSD card later, they have to decide in advance how much storage they need, and many of us are going to err on the side of safety, bumping our purchase up to a higher price-band.

Adding $100 or $200 to the price of an iDevice for maybe $5-10 worth of flash storage/controller capacity is an important source of income for Apple, and one of the reasons its margins are so high. Whatever the company makes on a 16GB device, if it can upsell you to a 32GB or 64GB (or even 128GB, in the case of the iPad), almost all of the premium charged on those beefier models is pure profit.

It’s not money Apple would give up lightly, but I do wonder whether it’s sustainable …  Read more

Opinion: Five years from now, will we have given up all control of our technology?

matrix

I know, it seems an odd question. But a few different things over the last couple of days got me thinking …

Years ago, before either Google or Apple ecosystems were really deserving of the term, I managed all my device synchronisation manually: I decided what content got synced on what devices. My music too: iTunes was allowed to play it, but not to manage it – I took care of the folder structures and meta-data myself. And the miscellaneous notes I kept were in a folder full of text files, the format deliberately chosen to be compatible with anything, not sitting inside Apple’s Notes app.

My view was that it should be me, not some piece of software or online service, that made the decisions about how things got done. Fast-forward to today, however, and things are quite different around here …  Read more