Ever since the leaks and rumours started coming in from various sources for this year’s iPhone, it was clear that Apple will not hold on to 4″ display devices. Last year Apple trashed the tradition of announcing only one device per year, in the form of iPhone 5s and 5c (albeit internals were same as previous year’s iPhone 5). Lots of questions asked were over the last 12 months about the saturation of top-end smartphone market. This year Apple did something new – in line with rumours and leaks – two new sizes of iPhone with identical internals. The two models are only differentiated by pixel density, battery life and optical image stabilisation in camera. Instead going downhill with pricing Apple launched larger version with a highest ever starting price for an iPhone, appropriately called it iPhone 6 Plus. There was an Average Selling Price obsessed decision too. 16GB version lived on and for every $100 increment, 64GB and 128GB variants were available. No one hates top two variants but 16GB is too suffocating for 2014-15 usage.
Let us face it, world has evolved in seven years since the first iPhone introduction. Lots of smartphone manufacturers have come in at various price points and configurations in the market. Even though Apple launched devices at two sizes in first six years – people have gotten use to larger sizes and they learnt how to operate. Last year, in iOS design overhaul Jony Ive said, people have gotten used to touch glass and interact, hence skeuomorphism was no longer needed. Similarly, larger screens offer new possibilities in user experience and hence Apple has decided to barge in at the right time. Should we call Apple playing catch-up with device screen size? Say yes and no depending on your emotions. I would thank all those large size Android/Windows phones for helping Apple to decide the design – and as customer I am even more happy to better iPhone.
Even though we are still awaiting AnandTech review for hardware specific understanding, the new iPhones appear to be the best smartphones in the market today. People who know about Apple products usually have an opinion that, Apple does not care for specs but it only cares for user experience. But I feel they do care for both and call it a product that is greater than sum of its parts. iPhone 5s running iOS8 is still better than many other smartphones in the market, including Samsung Galaxy S5. How are they achieving this? They take time to craft the product. How many iPhones in the works right now? There could be 100s but how many final models are going to pushed to the market in a year? Earlier it was only one, and now two. If we look at this year’s iPhone models, we realise that it is only one new product packaged in different screen sizes. Tim Cook said a few times a in last couple of years that, Apple wanted to do the best product that can deliver highest user experience satisfaction and display size or price was not the starting point. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus deliver distinctive user experience for the different sizes they come in. iPhone 6 Plus is a 1920*1080 device packing 401 ppi density, while the higher contrast ratio (1400:1) on iPhone 6 makes up for lower 326 ppi density. What more? iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilisation which looks nearly impossible on a 4.7″ model which happens to be 6.9 millimetre thin.
Regarding protruding camera lens:
Apple had three choices.
- Use a camera with worse optics that would not do the job
- Make the entire device thicker in accordance with the camera lens
- Allow the camera lens to protrude from the back of the camera
and they made the last one, cannot complain until we see engineering advancement to make thinner 5 lens element camera. Surely nothing to complain as long as the device works as well as this. iPhone camera is no longer the hobbyists’ camera, it has become a pro tool!
Apple Pay and NFC
Apple tries to solve the problem, and hence they innovate. But we need to remind ourselves with a few definitions here.
- Novelty: Something new
- Creation: Something new and valuable
- Invention: Something new, having potential value through utility
- Innovation: Something new and uniquely useful
NFC has been around for a decade solving no one’s problems. Apple introduced NFC Chip in iPhone 6 and for now will only work for Pay. It is not a brand new technology but Apple made the best use of it, just as they did with Bluetooth LE based iBeacons last year. Any successful business is about partnerships and that helps technology to reach the right end-user. Pay is expected to start in the United States by October 2014 with Apple website reading, “Apple Pay lets you use iPhone 6 to pay at over 220,000 locations accepting contactless payments and within participating apps. And there are even more stores and apps to come.” Pay helps to avoid credit card fraud, makes the device even more personal and valuable, and guess what – banks are busy marketing for Apple! Last year, after iPhone 5s release, tech press said, Touch ID is gimmicky and 64Bit Hardware and iOS were useless with 1GB RAM on board. This year, by the time Pay was getting introduced, Touch ID and 64Bit technology on iPhones were second generation and people loved the new secured way of unlocking the iPhone. 64Bit OS and Hardware sync well, Apple is 12 months into the whole new way encryption and decryption technology! Again, making hardware and software work well is not an easy job, any doubts ask Microsoft. Apple Pay easily qualifies for an innovation.
OpenGL has been a standard for a long time in computer graphics, but Apple decided to design its own language for that though Metal. For starters, Apps developed by using Metal are getting a banner in iOS8, and along with Swift, Apple scores one more point in vertical integration! Motion coprocessor was introduced last year and this year chip is even better with its capability to measure distance and elevation. Of course, new generation sensors are likely to make user experience even better. A few of the lesser spoken-out but very important ones get the nod in this year’s iPhones – FaceTime video call technology enhancements, Voice over LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi, etc.
Before iPhone introduction in 2007, Apple was an underdog and they took time out for ‘I am a Mac vs I am a PC’. These days, they do not get into negative marketing simply because they know it takes hard work to reach leadership level in consumer technology business, and it takes even harder to retain that position. I am wrote this during the first weekend sales, and hence no data for the launch weekend, while people seem to be really happy to get their hands on the new iPhones. Let us wait till the high-end smartphone market saturates!