So that’s another high-profile technology conference concluded, and another that resembled a political rally the night before the polls open. Huge promises, slick slideshows, and even a celebrity endorsement – in this case a performance from Elvis Costello. But as I sat watching the news unfold at Apple’s September conference, none of my focus was on the surrounding fluff – anyone can make wild gestures about how you literally will have no idea how you lived without their fancy new iPhone with slightly modified casing and ramped up price tag. And trust me, there was plenty of that. As a tech conference n00b, my aim was to not get distracted and focus on the meat and potatoes of the announcements. And all I’ll say is Apple, never move into the gambling industry. Because you’d loose all your money on the first card hand.
I don’t know if it’s industry tradition to deliberately ‘leak’ every detail on their upcoming device because they’re worried that somehow no-one will tune in to their fancy release events, or if Apple genuinely have the worst poker face since Lady Gaga (who got a mention in the introductory discussion on the success of the iTunes festival). Indeed, Phill Schiller even admitted when he was announcing one of the new iPhones (more below) that ‘”A few of you have maybe seen a few shots of this on the web, and that’s cool, because everyone’s really excited’ (basically admitting that trying to keep a secret in the modern media age is pointless but not so bad). But either way the conference was one of fairly predictable movements and few surprises. Let’s have a quick run over my preview article from yesterday and see how much the internet correctly predicted:
New iPhone 5C with colourful new cases and cheaper price tag? Check.
Add to that the usual trick of reducing the price of the current iPhone being abolished. Yup, seeya later iPhone 5, nice knowing you, but hey why would anyone buy our new ‘cheap’ iPhone if you’re still around being all cheap and almost as good technologically? Basically the new case thing is a return to the old Nokia 3310 days of different colour bodies for your phone – five different varieties in this case. And in a nice touch, the background on the homescreen matches your case colour by default. There’s a nice selection of cases allowing for additional customisation, and – praise be! – a larger battery for better life. 16GB is $99, 32GB $199 (both on contract), and I’ll leave you to decide whether that means 5C means ‘Cheap’. The only bit we didn’t call is the absence of Siri – with iOS7 and an improved Siri you won’t loose any key features for the want of a colourful plastic body and a slightly less eye-watering phone bill.
New iPhone 5S? Check.
It was hard for me not to fall off my chair laughing at all the hugely bloated statements coming out about how the 5S is literally the greatest thing in human endeavour, so beautiful it will reduce rival phone designers to tears (whilst looking the same as it always did), and so technologically advanced it consigns every other electronic appliance to the scrapheap of redundancy before it’s might. But hey, if you’ve spent this much on hosting a grand unveiling event for your new phone, you may as well big it up. And speaking as someone who doesn’t particularly follow the smartphone arms race too much (hell, I’ve still got a BlackBerry – are they even a thing anymore?), the specs to be fair are impressive. Three new colours: Silver, ‘space gray’ (to replace the easily markable black) and a golden champagne finish – custom-made for hip hop producers worldwide.
A A7 64-bit processor – the first phone around with such a powerful processor, and one which equates to a phone twice as powerful as the outgoing 5. Graphics scarily close to current-gen videogame consoles. An M7 motion co-processor for you fitness fanatics out there. A refined camera – complete with an unnecessary swipe at SLRs and pro photographers with their fancy-pants equipment and learning how to take good pictures (much to the delight of many an Instagram hipster worldwide, presumably), but still a welcome feature nonetheless considering most folks surveyed wanted a better camera along with better battery life on the new iPhones. Speaking of which, battery life isn’t exactly improved, but it’s on a par with the 5, which considering the new levels of tech in the phone is the least anyone could ask for.
Fingerprint scanning technology? Check.
Remember the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies? Where he had one of those huge early Ericsson phones and it had a fingerprint scanner? Well that was released in 1997, and 16 years down the line it has become a reality in the form of TouchID. As predicted, the scanner is built into the Home button, and scans your finger whenever you press the button. No more swiping the screen, no more struggles to remember a passcode (and being locked out when your drunk and can’t remember it). It can learn multiple fingers, and can be operated from any angle, and will replace the traditional passwords for iTunes and App Store purchases. Conspiracies abounded soon after on Twitter about the NSA, people having fingers chopped off for their phone and whatever else, but for me my only caveat was having had a laptop a few years ago with a fingerprint scanner which required approximately 75 million swipes before it recognized your hand, I sure hope this works a lot smoother – but this being Apple I assume that will be the case.
New iPads? Surprisingly, no.
iWatch? As predicted, nope.
This was clearly an event to showcase the new iPhone range, as well as the new iOS7 operating system ready to download for free from September 13th, which is coincidentally the day you can start to pre-order your shiny new iPhone 5C. September 20th is official launch day for both new phones, so you can either pick up your pre-ordered 5C or queue round the block for the 5S. Alongside these two new kids on the block the 4S still soldiers on, now available free on-contract. From my view as a skint student happy to be a year or two behind the technology curve, nothing here is a deal-breaker, but I must admit that through the bluster and laughable boasts I was very impressed with the 5S.
Less so with the 5C, which seemed more like the 5 in a fancy dress, and the fact that the regular 5 is out on it’s ear demonstrates Apple’s continuing commitment to repackaging old products in new clothing to keep the price tag high. This is a company that with a straight face took the original iPod design dating back to 2001, slapped the name ‘iPod Classic’ on it and now sells it to you for £200 (especially laughable as refurbished later iPod variants are available for a fraction of the cost). So we shouldn’t be surprised by the 5C shoving the 5 off a cliff into obscurity. The 5S though looks like another gargantuan step forward, and what with the sad departure of Steve Jobs and other competitors (except BlackBerry) stepping up their game, this is another bold statement of intent in the smartphone arms race.