Was the recent launch enough to stave off the wolves? Has Apple delivered the goods, or are the iPhone 6 and Apple watch dull, derivative updates from a company running out of ideas? Rory Reid investigates.
This is a crucial time for Apple. Leading up to the unveiling of its iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Watch, there were plenty of detractors ready to pour scorn on a company that has found it increasingly difficult to innovate in the face of stiff, faster-moving competition.
My verdict is that the new iPhones are – at first glance – somewhat derivative, but they are far from dull. Yes, those inside Apple have performed their usual trick of adopting existing concepts, giving them a spit and a polish and re-presenting them as if they’re breaking new ground, but there’s more to it than that.
I’ve looked beyond the marketing hype and the spec sheets and I see a device that will likely be the slickest smartphone package ever — one that will change the way people think about how they use a phone.
Apple hasn’t reinvented the wheel with iPhone 6, but it has given us new, unforeseen avenues to explore – avenues that make the smartphone even smarter.
Big is the new small
The first and arguably most significant upgrade is tantamount to an admission of failure on Apple’s part. It’s caved and followed the direction taken by its rivals, opting for larger screens.
Gone is the 4-inch display of the 5S and with it Steve Jobs’ claim that “nobody is going to buy a big phone” because “you can’t get your hand around it.” Jobs, rest his soul, was wrong. People do buy big phones, so in come 4.7-inch and 5.3-inch screens for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Those with slender hands can opt for the still-portable iPhone 6, while those who’ve hankered after a phablet can opt for the gigantic 6 Plus. Both are fitted with a user interface that quickly pushes out of reach buttons towards your thumb on demand.
Some may criticise Apple for this u-turn, but I see it as giving the people what they want. The market demanded such a feature and it listened. Let’s not forget – it was Apple that set the big-screen mobile agenda with the original iPhone – others merely followed suit.
Paying it forward
Another huge tick for the iPhone 6 is Apple Pay, which uses NFC (Near Field Communication) to allow users to pay for products by waving their handset (or Watch) in front of a sensor. Again, the technology isn’t new – many high-end phones already allow NFC payments at vendors that accept contactless payments. But we’re willing to bet it’s Apple that makes this a feature people actually use in the real world, taking NFC from being a nice-to-have to an essential part of our every day lives.
On the surface, Apple doesnt’ appear to have been very innovative with the iPhone 6’s camera. It doesn’t have a huge multi-megapixel sensor and it doesn’t do 4K video, but there’s every chance it’ll still deliver comparable, more usable or better, results than its rivals.
The iPhone 6 will facilitate better stills in all light conditions thanks to a sensor that lets in more light, and the 6 Plus better video thanks to cinematic image stabilization. It’s too early to say for sure, but if it’s as good as Apple’s sample videos suggest, it could mean the end of shaky, unusable cameraphone video that is the bain of all budding videographers.
4K is great, but I’d happily trade a few pixels for stable, watchable video. Plus, who the hell has a 4K TV yet anyway?
Where the iPhone 6 is potentially revolutionary is in its next-level health monitoring technology. HealthKit, and the associated Health app, lets you use the iPhone as your personal trainer or family nurse. It’ll keep an eye on your daily activity levels, monitoring how often you sit, stand, walk, run or climb the stairs.
Hit the gym and the iPhone 6 will tell you how hard you’re working out. Wear the Apple Watch and it’ll accurately monitor your heart rate. You can even tell it what you’re eating so it can see any dietary deficiencies you may have, or pass that information to your doctor so he or she can make more informed diagnoses.
At worst, the iPhone 6 will give you the wake-up call you might need to get up off the couch once in a while. At best, it has the potential to change your life for the better.
Watch the throne
Apple may have stolen the iPhone 6’s thunder slightly by announcing it will also be bringing to market the long-rumoured Apple Watch. We’ve seen smart watches before; numerous companies have attempted to cash in on on the wearable technology frontier, but all, so far, have failed.
This, however, feels different. Apple watch feels special. With Watch, Apple appears to have addressed all the major problems inherent in this class of device. It does so much and looks so good that not only do I want one, I think I’d use one consistently, too.
Ultimately then, there’s a case to suggest Apple has once again dusted off old ideas or integrated semi-new ones to create a rehash. But those who harbour that opinion aren’t seeing the bigger picture. We wanted all that new stuff so let’s not complain about the fact Apple has given it to us, when the truth is it’s also given us a whole lot more.
The iPhone 6 appears to have been designed to integrate itself almost perfectly with our modern lifestyles. Yes, it might not have some bleeding edge tech, but everything in the iPhone 6 feels fully baked, seamlessly integrated and genuinely useful.
The health, payment and Watch features alone will reinvent the way we use mobile phones in a way none of us have seen since the original iPhone first came on the scene and changed our expectations of what a mobile phone should be.