Apple’s Spring Forward event happened just a few hours ago and it was exactly what we expect from any Apple event, an Apple love fest and the introduction of the Apple Watch. Tim Cook started the Keynote by introducing a brand new store just built in China and announcing that Apple now has 453 stores worldwide and had over 120 million visitors in the last quarter in all those stores. After that quick introduction and store stats overview Tim jumped right into product, starting with the Apple TV.
Tim talked about the new content channels that have been added to Apple TV over the past few months but specifically focused on HBO. Tim introduced the CEO of HBO Richard Plepler to make the announcement that HBO’s new stand alone subscription service HBO Now will be an Apple device exclusive starting in April with no cable subscription required. HBO Now will give you access to HBO’s entire catalog from the past to current titles. HBO Now will work on Apple TV and all iOS devices and will cost $14.99 per month and the first month free with delivery target date of April 12th.
Tim then jumped into the next big announcement for Apple TV which is pretty significant: a $30 price drop from $99 to $69 dollars. Tim pulled out yet another big number, which he loves to do, and that’s 25 million Apple TV units sold. With the price drop to $69 and with HBO Now it’s very likely that more people will be checking out the Apple TV. While HBO has alienated a large market by doing a timed Apple exclusive with HBO Now, they are likely banking on the Apple TV price drop to push people to buy both the Apple TV and HBO Now.
Tim opens up his iPhone presentation with his typical praise citing the good reviews and statistics and laying claim on creating a new category when iPhone first launched (this can all be debated of course). The big news and the big number here is that Apple claims to have sold 700 million iPhones to date. Tim also claims that iPhone sales growth grew by 49% compared to the industry which was at 26%. It’s important to note that Apple opens all its Keynotes with these metrics in an effort to show the strength of the brand, the metrics source on Tim’s slides was Gartner.
Tim went on to claim the iPhone as the #1 selling smartphone and had a customer satisfaction rating of 99%. Tim goes on to praise Apple Pay claiming that “it has forever changed the way we pay for things.” Tim has overlooked Google Wallet, SoftCard and LoopPay, which is OK since this is their presentation. Apple Pay started with 6 banks and it now supports over 2500 banks. Over 700,000 retailers accept Apple Pay, and Coca-Cola is also accepting Apple Pay in its vending machines.
Tim’s next big announcement for iPhone is that every major car maker has committed to deliver Apple Car Play in its vehicles. More than 40 new models of cars will ship with Car Play. Tim’s next announcement has to do with iPhone Health Kit and medical research announcing Research Kit. Research Kit is a software framework made for medical research and lets researchers create their own iPhone apps for the research they need done. Apple worked with the likes of University of Oxford, Stanford Medicine, Penn Medicine and University of Rochester on Research Kit.
Together Apple and these institutions have created the first five apps for Research Kit and Health Kit starting with an app for Parkinson’s disease. Anyone with an iPhone can contribute to the apps created for whatever specific disease the app covers. The app turns the iPhone into a diagnostic tool that can evaluate hand tremors and vocal cord vibrations to assess the level of Parkinson’s. Overall a pretty neat idea and one that could be helpful to both patients and doctors. Other apps include Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Asthma and Breast Cancer. Research Kit is also Open Source and available for others to build on. Apple also made a firm promise that privacy and data protection is paramount and Apple will never see any of your data.
Tim segues into the Mac lineup claiming that the Mac has outgrown the industry every year for the past ten years. Cook then claims that industry notebook sales have decreased by 2% while MacBook sales have grown over 20%. Tim introduces the new MacBook. The new MacBook weighs in at only 2 pounds and is only 13.1 mm at it’s thickest point. Of course this probably means zero expandability for those who want more RAM or a bigger SSD.
Phil Schiller starts the presentation by going over the keyboard which goes from a scissor mechanism for tactility to a butterfly mechanism which supposedly delivers better performance. The scissor mechanism is a two part system while the butterfly is a single system. Schiller claims the butterfly mechanism is 4 times stronger and 40% thinner allowing to make the keyboard even thinner. Schiller moves on to the Retina display with a 2304×1440 resolution at 12″. Schiller claims the new MacBook 12″ display consumes 30% less energy due to its new pixel technology. Schiller covers the Mac’s trackpad and other parts of the device all of which seem to be pretty amazing.
Schiller moves on to the internals of the MacBook which of course starts with the unibody construction and for the first time in a MacBook, no fans. The first time Apple has done this, no fans needed to take heat off the logic board and internals. Apple engineers also reduced the size of the logic board by 67% which is a huge part in making this MacBook so thin. The processor is the Intel Core M with configurations up to 1.3GHz with turbo up to 2.9GHz using only 5 watts of power.
Schiller moves on to the battery technology in the MacBook which they are calling “Terraced, contoured battery cells”. These cells are stacked and contoured to fit into the chassis of the new MacBook so there is no wasted space. Schiller claims the new contoured cells offer 35% more efficiency as well as all day battery life. There is only one connector on the new MacBook and it supports Power, USB, DisplayPort, HDMI and VGA all through one connection. The new connector is called USB-C and Apple worked with other companies to make it happen.
The new MacBook starts at $1299 and has a 12″ Retina display, 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M, Intel HD Graphics 5300, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Bump that up to $1599 and you get a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M and a 512GB SSD, begins shipping April 10th.
Tim Cook takes the stage for the introduction of the Apple Watch calling it “the most personal device we have ever created.” Cook goes over the materials used in the construction of the Apple Watch honing in on their premium quality. Cook goes over the accuracy of the Apple Watch’s time keeping saying it is within 50 milliseconds of UTC time. Cook then went over the different watch faces available on the Apple Watch, including a Mickey Mouse watch face.
The watch also features what Apple is calling “Glances” a lot like control center you swipe up from the bottom and you can get weather, calendar and health stats. Cook points out the text messaging and phone call features of the Apple Watch, something other smartwatch makers have already been doing for some time now. Apple is introducing what they call “Digital Touch” which allows you to connect watches together and send sketches, heartbeats and other novel things, so far pretty gimmicky.
Cook calls the watch a comprehensive health and fitness companion and goes over some of the health features showing movement, exercise and reminders if you have been sitting to long. The watch will keep track of all aspects of your activity and remind you to do things and compile the data into a weekly report for you. Cook says “it’s like having a coach on your wrist.” The watch also has a new workout app which has a variety of workouts you can do while the watch records all the metrics.
Cook goes on to talk about the watch’s ability to use Apple Pay and receive notifications as well as use a variety of apps on the watch. Cook says developers have developed thousands of new apps using WatchKit and Kevin Lynch demos some of those apps. iPhone and Apple Watch are made to be together, you download apps from iPhone to the watch this will happen with iOS 8.2. Finally Cook talks about battery and claims 18 hours of battery using the watch in a variety of ways, we shall see how that goes with real world testing. Cook breaks down the models of the watch.
The Sport is made of anodized aluminum and is available in silver and space grey with colorful bands. Cook shows a video narrated by Jony Ive where Ive claims Apple has set a new standard in aluminium alloys for the watch. The Sport starts at $349 for the 38mm version and $399 for the 42mm version. Next up is the Apple Watch collection which offers more variety of bands and the cases are made of stainless steel with traditional finish or space black. Cook shows a video again narrated by Jony Ive touting the brilliance of Apple’s steel. This collection starts at $549 – $1049 for the 38mm and $599 – $1099 for the 42mm. Finally Cook introduces the 18K solid gold watches which start a whopping $10,000. Apple Watch pre-orders start April 1oth.
As with all Apple events there is a ton of stuff to unpack and look over, most all of the other tech websites were flinging out posts left and right to grab your views and create a stir. We decided to sit and watch this event after the fact and look over what Apple presented with a little time on our hands to try and understand and comment with some semblance of intelligence, so here we go.
Apple TV/HBO Now
HBO Now, this is going to make a lot of people who do not use Apple devices very upset at HBO for making their streaming service an Apple exclusive, especially with Game of Thrones starting. While Apple has sold 25 million Apple TVs this is 25 million since 2007 and we never heard how many Apple TV 3’s Apple has sold. Enter the Apple TV price drop.
I think the reason HBO signed on with Apple for an exclusive is to help Apple move more Apple TV’s and at $69 I see no reason why people won’t jump at that for a month free of HBO Now and the ability to watch their favorite HBO series. HBO is certainly getting a huge payday out of this deal and it will benefit both HBO and Apple. Once the exclusive deal is up, HBO will be free to hock their services everywhere and while they may alienate some of their hardcore fans, they will gain most of them back.
Apple’s phone sales claims and number one smartphone status is all debatable and you can compare one study after another to prove your point. The biggest thing I pulled out of the iPhone announcements was ResearchKit. Apple is making this open source and it’s really a brilliant idea on their part and will benefit many people and researchers. All of the OS wars aside, this is a solid move by Apple to improve the lives of people using any OS. Well done on that front.
Probably the most impressive part of the whole presentation for me was the MacBook presentation. The size of this thing is crazy and the technology jammed into it is equally mental (as a good friend of mine from the UK would say). Everything about this MacBook design is awesome, from the track pad and Retina screen to the keyboard and size of the logic board. Pricing was even reasonable for Mac pricing. If I didn’t need to have a MacBook Pro, I would consider the MacBook as a daily driver machine.
Finally, the long awaited Apple Watch. This is where Cook and friends go off the rails. In an amazing effort to showcase the watch as something that’s never been done before, they failed. Almost everything Cook showed on that stage has already or is already being done with other smartwatches (with the exception of Apple Pay). There was no real draw or wow factor as to why anyone should or would want to own this watch. The only reason Cook could give was that the watch was an awesome and personal accessory that would look great on your wrist.
Cook tried to paint the watch as a health and fitness companion, but at those prices, you may as well not work out because you won’t be eating much anyway. Pricing starting at $349 and up over $10,000 for a smartwatch is where I think Cook was smoking dope. This is insane. Now I am not saying people won’t buy this watch, I think many will. But what I am saying is, Apple didn’t bring anything new to the table to convince me to want to own their timepiece. At those prices you’re better off looking at the new Huawei watch or the Moto 360 or even better, the Martian Watch collection.
Apple proved to me today that smartwatches are still for notifications only and still have a ways to go to be anything more than that. My personal recommendation to readers is this: don’t buy this watch. Wait and see where the technology goes and how it grows. Early adoption is fun for some of us, I do it all the time, but like Google Glass, the Apple Watch is too much money even for early adoption.Watch The Apple Keynote