Apple Watch – The Future or a Flop?

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Last week saw the official launch of the much anticipated (in tech circles anyway!) Apple Watch. On the back of record $18bn profits at the start of 2015, it seems that Apple can do no wrong – but is the Watch, not the iWatch, the next big thing or an innovation too far?

Why you need one:

  • Fashion – When Apple launched its first generation of phone in 2007, thanks to some fantastic design and marketing from Ive and Jobs, it was an object which people actually desired. It became a fashion accessory, so merging tech and fashion is not new to Apple.
  • Price – The price tag isn’t cheap but in the world of watches, £299 isn’t too bad. That money will get you a very nice designer watch (Armani, Boss and Barbour are all in the ball park), but these watches are different propositions. The real competition to the Watch is probably the Samsung Gear which retails at a similar price. It might feel more expensive than a phone as a lot of phone cost is added as part of your phone contract – no contract with the Watch.
  • Functionality – As it stands, the Watch is able to read emails, receive calls, summon Siri and alert you to social media updates, with Facebook and Twitter alerts working. So it’s no white elephant. And the functionality will only increase. Devices live and die by the developer buy-in and the early signs are that there will be lots of new apps arriving on the Watch soon.
  • It’s a New Apple Product – You can expect the hype to grow over the next six weeks and if the last quarter of 2014 is anything to go by, the hype works on lots of us. There will be big queues outside shops across the world at the end of April.

Why you don’t need one:

  • Track Record – As is often the case, Apple is not first to the smart-wear market. Samsung’s Gear range has been on the market for around 18 months and hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. The Pebble Watch works with iOS, and while it has sold 1m units in its first two years, Apple will be expecting to shift a lot more than this. Is this suggesting that people just aren’t into smart-wear (yet?)?
  • You Need an iPhone – Obviously! And if you have updated your software with iOS 8.2, then you will notice that Apple have helpfully popped the Watch app on your phone. Just like they helpfully put the latest U2 album on your phone….
  • Battery Life – This has been quite contentious since the launch. Apple claimed battery lives of over 24 hours, but tests have yielded far poorer results. It kind of depends on what you do and how often you use the phone but the battery on your Watch going dead at lunchtime will seriously irritate.
  • Fashion and Price – While both of these were listed as reasons to buy a Watch, they are also reasons not to. The £299 price-tag is worth paying if you are going to see some sort of benefit, but will the Watch really deliver it? And the Watch is a mix of fashion and tech, but being both means it could do neither well.

What do you think? Are you excited by the launch or letting it pass you by?

iOS 8 Features and Issues

iOS_8

iOS_8

By now, if you have an Apple device, it is likely that you have downloaded iOS 8, or at least be thinking about it.  The new update has added some positive and not so positive changes, so here is a run-down of the features and whether they are a step forward or not.

Preparation: If you have already downloaded, particularly on the day of release, then you will know the well documented issues around downloading iOS 8.  I downloaded it on the day and it took a couple of hours, and required 4.6GB of free space to do so.  This meant taking a lot of music and photos off my phone, which was not a big deal.  However, if you download the update via your PC / Mac and then plug your mobile device in, this should prevent the huge space requirement, and download speeds have dramatically reduced in the last week.  Of course, don’t forget to back everything up to the cloud / computer before you hit download, you never know!

Most of the features of iOS 8 are hidden away, and there is very little change in look and feel unlike the release of iOS 7, but some of the features are cool.

See Your Recent Contacts: If you double click the home button, you will see your favourite and most recent people (with their profile pics) who you have been in touch with appear at the top of the screen.  This is a nice feature and allows you to message / call them quickly.  However, if you have an issue with your privacy, and don’t want to share who you have been in contact with, then you can switch this feature off.

Messaging Features: There are a couple of features within messages which I think are good.  You can share your location via messages with the recipient, handy if you are running late / lost!  There is a also predictive text feature which has been a standard feature on Samsung devices for some time.  It will try to understand the context of what you are sending and suggest words – personally, I find this a little irritating and distracting, so I have turned it off, but it’s worth trying out for yourself.

Rapid-Reply Messages: If a text comes through and your screen is locked, you can quickly reply by just clicking on the message and typing a response – I like this feature, particularly handy if you just want to drop a quick reply.

Email Windows: This is probably the feature that I have used most in the last week or so.  One of the most irritating features of the Apple mail app at the bottom of the screen was that if you opened an email to send, and then wanted to refer to something else in your email folder, you had to shut the email down as a draft before looking elsewhere – not anymore!  The app treats a new email as a window that you can just swipe down on and then look for that reference info.  When you have it, swipe up and the draft message is there.  A really nice feature which, once you get the hang of the swipe up, can save a bit of time.

There are other features like which apps are draining your battery the most, and at last the addition of non-Apple keyboards, but I think that the most exciting features will come in the future.  iOS 8 is a platform and I think there is more to come, especially as the iPhone 6 / 6 Plus starts to gain traction.  So far, so OK, but looking forward to some more new features soon.

What do you think about the changes?  Are you disappointed by the lack of innovation, or quietly impressed with the new update?

Image via pcadvisor.co.uk

Apple Launch Event

Apple iPhone 6 and Apple Watch

Apple iPhone 6 and Apple Watch

Assuming that you are not a tech geek / happened to be passing the Flint Centre in Cupertino California, then you may be wondering what happened at the Apple Launch Event on 9th September.

Well, you essentially missed three things – two new iPhones and the ‘one more thing’, the Apple Watch.

New iPhone 6:

Tim Cook unveiled two new iPhones at the launch event.  The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.  Rather than just an update of software or a couple of new features, this is a significant change for the iPhone.  As with the move from the iPhone 4 to 5, the iPhone 6 will be larger than the 5.  The iPhone 5 screen is 4 inches, but the iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches.  The iPhone 6 Plus has a screen size of 5.5 inches, which puts it in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3.

The iPhone 6 will boast an increased number of pixels for better text clarity, and a better autofocus on the camera, which as an iPhone 5 user I think is long overdue.  There are also advances in storing your payment info on your phone, imaginatively called Apple Pay, and accessing it via fingerprint and near-field communication (NFC), technology which has yet to gain widespread support in the financial world.

While this sort of innovation is new for Apple, it is not new for the marketplace or smart phone users.  Samsung has long had the approach that bigger is best even to the point of merging the worlds of the phone and tablet with the Galaxy Note 3 ‘Phablet’.  So, Apple could be accused of following the market on one hand, and amending its product offering by responding to changing consumer needs on the other – depends if you are a fan of Apple or not, but it is a bold move to dump the 4 inch size when it has been so popular.

New Apple Watch:

The Apple Watch (no, not the iWatch) is perhaps the worst kept secret in tech.  Apple are positioning this as a health and fitness extension of the iPhone.  You will be able to track your progress by GPS and Wi-Fi, but you will need an iPhone 6 to make the watch work, which will make it a big investment at least initially.

The Apple Watch claims to be accurate to 0.05 secs wherever you are on the planet, and will enable you to access a number of phone features on the device – Siri (for smart messaging), music, speaker, etc.  The Apple Watch is available in two sizes (38mm and 42mm height), and has a range of faces that users can choose, and a choice of six interchangeable straps – Apple boast that there are 2 million ways to see time on the Apple Watch.

Like the iPhone 6, the technology is new for Apple, but not new for users or the market.  Samsung released the Gear smartwatch over a year ago, and Google’s wearable technology is already available in the UK with Google Glass.

Summary:

So, while there is always a lot of excitement about the launch of new Apple products, and I am sure that there will be the traditional queues outside Apple Stores on the day of launch, there were no great surprises – larger phones are one of the reasons why Samsung is so successful, and wearable technology is already with us.  There is no doubt that these products will sell well, but the wow factor that accompanied earlier launches just wasn’t there – has Apple turned from market leader to market follower?

iOS7

ios7-hand-100041902-large

ios7-hand-100041902-large

If you have a relatively modern Apple iPad, iPhone or iPod, then you have probably already been given the option to download iOS7.  So, it’s time to back up everything important to you (just in case!) and see how iOS7 will change your mobile experience.

iOS7 has been called the “biggest change to iOS since the iPhone”.  OK, so that was said by Apple CEO Tim Cook, but just by looking at the visuals will show that this is a fairly dramatic upgrade.  But this comes with danger.  Mobile devices are so integrated into people’s lives that it is tough to make changes to an operating system which are significant enough to be exciting, but not so significant that the device feels unfamiliar to the user.

iOS7 will bring a new, flatter and more colourful ‘look and feel’ to devices, with a design that fills up the screen better than iOS6.  Presumably this is in response to users downloading more and more apps, as well as some envious looks over the shoulder at our friends’ Androids.

Siri is receiving an upgrade.  You will be able to choose a male or female voice, and there are some enhancements to the voice recognition.  I have never had a problem with Siri (with a London accent), but the recognition should enable more people to use a very cool service – iOS7 meand Siri is available in French and German.

iTunes Radio sounds very cool with 200 radio stations that you can listen to for free, but this is not expected in Europe for a couple of months.  It is being released in the US this week.

One of the most significant usability changes is the Control Centre.  This will allow you to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to show some common settings, which is a positive move.  One of the features at the Control Centre is a torch, and while there are a number of free flashlight downloads which seem to do that job, easy access from the Control Centre may make finding the keyhole a little easier after a long night at the pub!

Also, notifications are available at the lock screen, which is useful, particularly if you are a social networker or social gamer.

I have a weakness for new gadgets, and I think that this will satisfy my appetite for something new to play with on my iPhone 5.  Given the mixed reactions to the 5S and 5C, are major software updates a way for handset manufacturers to keep a sense of excitement around their devices?

Apple’s two new iPhones

iphone-5C

iphone-5C

According to the tech rumour mill, September 10th will see the launch of two new iPhones – the 5S and the 5C.  New iPhones for certain people are an exciting event (anyone for queuing outside the Apple store for 5 days?), but this launch is particularly significant as the 5C is going to be a budget version of the iPhone, which is a significant change to Apple’s strategy.

Firstly, what about the 5S – well, it will be similar to a 5, but with a faster processor, an improved camera (apparently 12 megapixel) and fingerprint recognition which I think it is quite a cool feature, although it didn’t catch on with laptops.  But I think the 5C is the more interesting proposition.

The iPhone is a very popular device, but Apple has been losing market share to Android devices particularly Samsung devices.  The 5C is designed to try to take some share away from Samsung by positioning their phone at a cheaper price point.

Previously, Apple has relied on frequently releasing new models and being able to sell the older models off at a cheaper price.  But this tactic has not been working of late – it seems that consumers want the new phone but without the hefty Apple price tag.

Apparently the ‘C’ in 5C stands for colour (no, not cheap!) – initial colours are said to be blue, red, yellow and green and should give the 5C a more funky and young feel.  However, if you are a lawyer for Apple I have good news.  These colours are the same as those of the Google logo, so expect another protracted legal battle between the two tech foes.  It is also likely to have more of a plastic feel than the 5 or 5S.

I think this is a significant change in strategy for Apple.  It has struggled to gain penetration in the emerging markets, but it still a desirable brand.  The challenge for Apple now will shift.  If it is able to price the 5C to compete with Samsung, the question for consumers is whether they prefer the iOS or Android operating systems.  And this makes the release of iOS7 even more important for Apple’s growth.

Apple iOS 6

IOS6

iOS 6 – Good, bad or ugly?

IOS6

If you have an iphone or iPad, then you have probably downloaded Apple’s new mobile operating already.  But do you want to know what the good, OK and plain bad features are?  Then read on…

Good:

Do Not Disturb – a feature that turns calls and other notifications off.  If that’s too much, you can choose certain contacts to get through – a great feature

Sharing Photos – You are now able to share photos straight from the album onto social networks or onto email – a feature that should not have taken this long, but great to have nonetheless!

Siri – This tool is now capable of making reservations online with Apple’s partners and is now able to open apps – presuming that it can understand what you are saying

VIP Mail – If you get sick of being notified about random emails, then VIP Mail is for you – you can choose your VIP contacts and if they send you an email, you will be notified even if your phone is locked – excellent feature and a potential marketing opportunity for the future

OK:

The arrow menu in the middle of the bottom of the screen on Safari has an improved looking menu which is good.  However, apart from the inclusion of being able to share on Facebook, there are no new features here

Passbook – This might take a while to get used for some people, but it is somewhere to hold all the bar codes that you need in your life – concert tickets, boarding passes, loyalty cards and vouchers.  This tool is a marketer’s dream, and I am really looking forward to exploring the possibilities of this.

App Store – This has now got some small changes in functionality, but the main changes are to the new look and feel

Phone – The features on the actual phone are getting better – you can now not answer a call but send a message saying that you will call them later or one of a few other options – good idea, but I remember it on my Nokia in 2000!

Bad:

Maps – iOS 6 sees the Google maps feature removed as Google are more of a competitor these days.  While I think the map has a better aesthetic now, the transit directions which show routes for trains and buses.  As someone living in a busy metropolitan area, this is a huge fail.  There are also reports that it struggles to find some locations – not good…

YouTube – For the same reasons as maps disappearing, Google’s YouTube has disappeared.  This is frustrating although it can be sorted by downloading the YouTube app from the App Store which is excellent – so there is a solution but it’s nothing to do with Apple.  Apparently Apple’s new video partner is Vimeo, so expect a pre-loaded Vimeo app on your iPhone 5 home screen.

These are just the highlights – there are more than 200 new features in total!  As you may have guessed now, I think the update has been on the whole pretty good – some really nice features, some good ones and the odd one that feel like a step backwards (Apple Maps, I am talking to you!).

This iOS 6 is a good preview of the features on the new iPhone 5.  Are they good enough to persuade you to join the huge queue for the new release or are you tempted by an Android?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think…

Apple iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 is here

 iPhone5

Apple announced this week that the iPhone 5 will be available to buy from next Friday.  This follows the slight disappointment of the release of the iPhone 4S which was originally touted as the iPhone 5 back in October 2011. 

So, what is different about the 5 vs the 4S?  Here are the key features that you need to know:

Bigger but smaller – The iPhone 5 is smaller in depth than the chunky 4S and is the same width, but it is longer.  Apple have reflected trends in the market with larger retina screens.  If you are familiar with the 4S, you will know that there are 4 rows of apps per page – the 5 is big enough to have 5 rows of apps per page.

Tinier Sim – If you have an iPhone, you will know about the smaller than usual sim cards.  But the iPhone 5 has an ever smaller sim.  This means that you are going to need a new sim card – most networks have committed to replacing sim cards without charge. 

Connecting People – For the first time in almost a decade the docking connector on the iPhone has changed.  Now called the ‘Lightning’ connector, it promises to be quicker but it does mean that your docking station and other devices will need an adaptor.  Apple have said that they will be selling one for £25, but there will inevitably be cheaper alternatives available very soon. 

The Quickest Yet – The iPhone 5 will be 4G enabled.  This means that it is one of the first phones to be able to take advantage of the planned roll-out of 4G in the UK.  4G service means that your phone will have wireless speed but without having to sign into a wireless network – a big positive and one which will make mobile far more accessible.  Before Christmas 2012, 16 UK cities will receive 4G as part of a trial, so iPhone 5 early adopters will be able to take advantage of this. 

Sounds Good – The iPhone 5 will receive new ear pods, which is good news for anyone who has used the old ear pods – they never stay in your ear!

…And The Price – Here comes the bad news.  The iPhone 5 is not a cheap purchase.  There are 3 versions available, the 16GB at £529, the 32GB at £599 and the 64GB at £699.  Ouch! 

The iPhone 5 will inevitably sell well – when the 4S was released, 4 million were sold in the first 3 days of release.  Also, Apple have seen a slump in sales over the last quarter and some think that this is people holding on for the release of the iPhone 5.  However, the change in physical dimension of the 5 brings it closer to the competition.  Coupled with the ongoing court case between Samsung and Apple, the lines between Apple and the competition are starting to blur, so it will be interesting to see how successful it will be. 

What do you think about the iPhone 5 – excited or not?  Leave a comment and let me know.