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iPhone, iPay, iWant

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It’s an oxymoron, but I was expecting to be surprised during Apple’s ‘special event’.

Despite the clever marketing, we’d all heard the rumours. Tim Cook was likely to get on that famous stage and proudly announce the latest iPhone, perhaps one with a bigger screen, and hopefully show us a few nice images of the much anticipated Apple smartwatch.

Yet, we’ve come to expect so much from Apple that if they don’t blow us away with something so shiny and innovative that you’d give away the last Rolo ever in circulation to have it in your hands, we’re disappointed.

To put this in a brand context, when Microsoft announced the new Surface Pro 3 (the ‘tablet that can replace your laptop’), it took everyone by surprise. We didn’t even know it was coming, let alone how good it would be. Perhaps because our expectations are so (unfairly?) low when it comes to Microsoft and tablets.

Well, Apple surprised me on Tuesday. But not for the reasons I was expecting (if that sentence even makes sense…)

I was surprised because one of the biggest things I took away from the 2 hour event was that Apple are really starting to offer people a choice.

Apple announced not one, but two new iPhones: the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 is slightly larger than the 5S version (4.7” vs 4”) and the iPhone 6 Plus is what you might describe as a ‘Phablet’ – sitting pretty at 5.5”.

The Apple Watch, which looks great, is available as the standard Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition. All of which can be bought in two different sizes and a multitude of straps and finishes.

Up until fairly recently, Apple only offered you one of anything: there was one iPhone, and one iPad. The only difference was the storage capacity (and therefore the price), and they just kept bringing out new editions of each.

Now, we have quite a few options to choose from, depending on how we want to use it (the iPad Mini, the iPad Air, the iPhone 5S and 5C…) This announcement takes us further down that route, and is an indication of how much, as consumers, we’re using different tools for different things. And how much Apple are prepared to react to that.

The thing is, one of Apple’s strengths has always been its simplicity, and actual lack of choice. You used to be able to buy an iPad with two questions – storage size, and whether you wanted it with 3G or not. In an out of the Apple store in no time. 

Now, there are no less than 34 options for the Apple Watch – depending on what strap/ finish you want (the starting price in the US is $349). Apple are becoming more customisable (which makes sense, given the Apple Watch is a fashion item as well as a piece of technology).

Hopefully the fact that Apple are now offering more choice won’t be their undoing. Because if you don't get it right, choice becomes complexity, and confusion.

It does feel very odd to be saying that Apple are starting to offer more choice, especially when the Apple Watch will only work with an iPhone, which will further lock consumers into the iCloud.

Apple have always had a ‘closed’ reputation, only willing to offer something within their own ecosystem. But whilst this is largely justified, it’s not as if they’re the only ones at it. Even Nike have taken this approach with their Nike + environment, and it’s not even their core space.

However, when Satya Nadella announced Microsoft Office as an app for the iPad, it shook things to the core. Now, it’s perhaps not so ludicrous to think that you might see the next generation of the iPhone arriving with Windows Phone as an optional operating system.

A year ago, you would have been well within your rights to brand me preposterous for saying that. But now that Tim Cook and Satya Nadella are having a bit of a public love in (though Nadella has been getting himself around a lot…), maybe we will...

Microsoft are after all said to be giving away the Windows Phone OS for free, according to industry sources cited by The Times of India (to compete against Android). This article explains this a little more.

And soon you may be able to ‘dual boot’ by selecting what operating system you want, whether you’re in an iOS, Android or Windows mood. The interchangeable amongst you may have some sync issues, but at least you’d have the option.

A spin off effect from this announcement is that Apple are also giving us more choice because they have now invigorated the phablet and smartwatch industry to the extent that others will now enter the market with other, and perhaps better, options.

Apple themselves are not breaking any new ground in terms of the industry here. Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is now an extremely popular larger smartphone, and Google’s Android Wear is their foray into the smartwatch industry, though you probably couldn’t brand that extremely popular too…

But, let’s face it, not many of us were going to buy a smartwatch until we’ve at least had the opportunity to see what Apple’s would look like (if you have, do let me know what you think of it).

However, it’s not as if the current leading brands are going to be quaking into their boots now that Apple’s products have been unveiled.

This is because Apple’s brand has the power to sway consumers to try new things. As of Tuesday, these aren’t just toys for geeks, nor are they the mystical gadgets you only see in Sci Fi movies. Everyday people can, and will, buy the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch...probably in their waves.

But, crucially, they’ll explore other options too. (Ok, that’s not necessarily true for all of us. People will still buy Apple because it’s Apple. But at least they’ll have the choice.)

As Forbes points out, would you rather have 50% of a $100 million market, or 10% of a $1 billion market?

The iPhone 6 will suit some. Others, like David Braue who wrote the article ‘Dear Apple, thanks for not measuring up’ have migrated away from Apple to Android, and are perfectly happy with their choice, thanks very much.

In fact, some brands took advantage of the captive Twitter audience to add their own spin on how the market is looking now that Apple have pitched their tent.

HTC were fairly snide, but they had a valid point:


Unfortunately, Blackberry’s lack of imagination let them down again:

The point is, Apple have changed the direction of the devices industry simply by launching their first wearable and phablet device. Though some will disagree, Apple's presence in these markets legitimises them more than ever before.

Yes, the devices themselves have to be good. And they very well could be. The Apple Watch comes with some cool features, the best one possibly being its ‘digital crown’. This is Apple’s unique user interface for their smartwatch.

They haven’t just taken the touchscreen functionality of a smartphone and tried to overlay that onto a tiny space. The ‘pinch to zoom’ just wouldn’t work. This is entirely new functionality for a brand new screen – it’s best to watch (geddit) for yourself which you can do so here.

Other things like it knows when you raise your wrist and will then activate the display automatically, and the focus on fitness apps (for example, the Apple Watch will know when you’re climbing a mountain or on a flatter surface and calculate accordingly) will certainly help Apple’s cause.

A worry will be battery life, and Tim Cook made no effort to reassure people about how often they would have to charge this device other than to say, “It should last a day…”

Not only does Apple have the ability to change the way we think about wearables, it also has the ability to change the way we pay.

Yesterday wasn’t just a multiple product launch. It was a multiple product and services launch, with the introduction of ‘Apple Pay’.

‘Apple Pay’ is destined to replace your wallet, according to Cook. It works by installing a unique chip in the iPhone 6 (and, when it arrives, the Apple Watch), you scan your device against a merchant’s reader, confirm payment using the fingerprint scanner of your device and you’ve made your purchase.

Again, this isn’t anything new. Google Wallet has been around for a while, but its adoption has been poor. Apple have got some major retailers on board, and the consensus is that this is how we’ll all be paying at the checkout from now on, replacing the need for cards and chip and pin.

It’s secure too: Apple doesn’t store any credit card details on their server, and neither does the store you’re giving the money to.

Tim Cook said it himself – this is the next chapter in Apple’s story, but it’s also the next chapter for the devices industry at large.

Apple’s business model now has more of an ecommerce focus, and their products will see Apple start to hit the business space even more (as executives use the bigger phone screens to access comprehensive information on the go…and by the way that’s going to cause a few headaches for IT departments as they look to integrate them into the systems). It’s a shame we didn’t see much of this during the demonstration on the iPhone 6 Plus though.

Not much is new here, it’s all been done on some level by someone else already. That’s pretty much always been the case, but Apple has a habit of doing things better. Will that continue? An invigorated market means more choice for the consumer, so we shall see.

So go on Microsoft, you’ve surprised me once with the Surface Pro 3. Let’s see what wearables plans you’ve got round the corner...

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