We were in Cupertino this week to see Apple unveil its latest crop of hardware firsthand. (For all the details on the new products, check out our full coverage here.) Now that the dust has settled and we’ve gotten our first hands-on experience, we wanted to take some time to reflect. Here are our biggest takeaways from Apple’s latest new products.
The iPhone SE is No More
The iPhone SE has always held a special place in the pantheon of iPhones. Not only is it one of the examples of Apple’s finest hours in design but with the iPhone SE a phone that provided, for many, great design actually within reach. With a few minor upgrades it could have been easily been tje company’s value play. That said, Apple is already dealing with a robust lineup of phones geared towards a premium buyer (the iPhone Xr is Apple’s mid-market phone) so some culling of devices is to be expected. The Apple of today is not a sentimental company — it really never has been in the post return-of-Jobs era — nostalgia has always been a vestige kept alive by its hardest of core fans so this appears to be the final nail in the coffin for an iPhone SE form factor. It makes sense but it’s worth acknowledging the enduringness of that phone’s design.
Calm Down, AirPower’s Delayed Arrival is Fine
To be honest, I didn’t expect Apple’s fantastically-named charging pad to be included in the keynote — c’mon, it’s a charging pad, folks. At best it works have been a passing mention along with other peripherals. Apple’s much rumored and speculated Qi charger (the wireless charging protocol on which its reportedly being designed around) has been pedestalized by reporters grasping for any thing mysterious from Apple, especially with yesterday’s scrubbing of any mention of the device, but it’s clear that the issue is simply that the product is not ready for prime time and therefore Apple prefers to not acknowledge it. Apple’s MO here is as it always has been, they’ll release whenever they think it’s ready though the early announcement is a rare gaff by the marketing Goliath. Another thing, Apple has a proven track record of selling official chargers for its devices while charging a small premium for that OEM exclusivity. Why will the AirPower be any different? It’ll be here whenever it’s ready and our bet is they’ll launch it on their news blog.
The iPhone is the Macintosh You Carry With You
My own take of Apple’s underlying iPhone strategy is that it’s ingeniously simple to the point of being so obvious it’s hard for pundits and some naysayers to believe. The strategy is no different than how Apple has handled the Mac itself. First, let’s presume you’re the company who created a revolutionary product (even more revolutionary than the original Macintosh). This is the iPhone. Everything about it is done in-house: software and hardware. Over time, you incrementally turn it into the undisputed champion of smartphones in terms of customer satisfaction and profitability – I’m not discounting Android device reach here, only citing actual realities. Setting aside Apple’s iPhone Upgrade program what does one do to keep the iPhone differentiated from competition?
The answer appears to be to make indispensable peripherals and software. Apple already owns one of its own killer app, iMessage, which simply has no native app peer. Apple’s move into essential iPhone hardware peripherals has also been successful with AirPods quickly becoming one of the most beloved products Apple has released in years. AirPods limited compatibility outside of iPhone is by design. To take advantage of the device’s full, ever-expanding, capabilities, you’re going to have to cough up or stay tethered to an iPhone. If you want an Apple Watch, you’re going to have to buy an iPhone. Rinse and repeat. The iPhone has essentially become a personal hub with focused, purposeful devices within its orbit.
Apple Watch Series 4 is Health First, Connectivity Second, Apps Third
Apple has made it a tentpole to put the promotion of better physical health a core driving principle of the company. Where that’s most clearly evident is with the Apple Watch, which is Apple’s most personal product. The Apple Watch Series 4 is a big step forward in demonstrating the clarity of Apple’s smartwatch thesis. Prior iterations, which included the ceramic and genuine gold Apple watches deserve acknowledgement for their ambition, but consumers appear to want an Apple Watch that’s designed and engineered to provide a non intrusive lift to their everyday lives, not just an extension of the iPhone. Passive notifications, everyday gamification of health, and other outdoor uses where the Apple Watch is a more purposeful tool makes it a formidable companion to the iPhone. For cyclists and runners, AirPods equipped with the new Siri shortcuts, clear phone calls without the use of an iPhone, and maps are game changers.
Whereas the iPhone can be a deeply addicting device because of news apps, social media and games, the Apple Watch is decidedly “digitally analog”, there’s more focus on individual functions and tools than consumption. It’s a higher multi-use version of old mechanical tool watches, which were designed for specific uses like diving and climbing.
It’s hard to remember this, but the original iPhone launched without an app store. Steve Jobs was originally, and famously opposed to the idea. However, the launch of the App Store became one of the most successful businesses Apple ever launched and helped drive the iPhone, and later the iPad, to unfathomable success. The Apple Watch however seems to be embarking on a different trajectory with new core functions and key capabilities being built natively, by Apple. Traditional watchmaking takes great pride in the ability to create and cohesively design new complications into their watch movements. And yes, Apple is adding new “complications” to some of their watch faces, but to me, it’s these new functions (like fall detection and electrocardiograms) that define complications for the Apple Watch. Apple touts that it’s the best-selling watch and one of the best selling smart watches but Apple lost some market share from Q4 2017 to Q1 2018 so it will be interesting to see how the further defined Apple Watch and it’s health focused feature sets win consumers’ wrists.
Whither Life Alert?
Will Fall Detection put Life Alert out of business?
P.S. After handling it in person, my sense is gold stainless steel is exactly what the Apple Watch needs to satisfy the balance of everyday use and a touch of bling consumers are looking for from a gold Apple Watch desire.
Three new iPhones, an update to the AirPods, a new Apple Watch and more. Read the Story