WTF Weekly for September 12, 2019
I hope you’re an Apple fan, because this is Apple September keynote time, and I’m dedicating this WTF Weekly to it.
This week’s Apple Special Event didn’t produce the same levels of excitement as WWDC 2019 in June did. iPadOS, iOS 13, SwiftUI, and other related iOS technologies that were announced then were HUGE, and still are. I still can’t believe the massive tech dump that was WWDC.
Still, this was a solid keynote, with a couple surprises, and generally solid incremental progressions otherwise.
Sometimes people forget that not all Apple keynotes are incredible and that Apple doesn’t change the world every year. They also seem to forget that Apple’s direction on their frameworks and software initiatives matter just as much as tweaks to hardware in any given year. Apple is doing a lot of things right at the moment.
Apple still produces really good products and not every keynote has to be a barnstormer. Apple Watch would be considered a hugely successful product by even the dimmest analyst if it weren’t overshadowed by the unprecedented success of the iPhone.
Year after year, Apple continues to focus on the photographic capabilities of iPhones, in some ways pushing the boundaries of smartphone cameras, and in other ways playing catch up.
This year, Apple plays catch up with Night Mode and a wide angle lens, but implements them cleverly. The way you can switch between camera lenses seamlessly while shooting video, for example, seems like classic Apple refinement.
I like that iPhone 11 now has two lenses and is much more capable than its XR predecessor. Now it can do real hardware enabled portrait mode as well as let you choose between wide angle and ultra wide angle views.
I generally replace my phone every 2 1/2 to 3 years now. In February, I bought an iPhone XS Max. At the time, I honestly wouldn’t have considered the XR for a few reasons, the camera being a major one. Now with the iPhone 11, I don’t think that’s an issue anymore, even though obviously the Pro still leads in that area.
One of the surprises of the day for me was Apple’s pricing of Apple Arcade. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise – there are other game services out there that have deeper, more high quality games than iOS games tend to be.
That sounds like a bashing, and all of us can probably name some really good iOS games. There certainly are some wonderful examples like Crossy Road, Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2, Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey, Minecraft, Stardew Valley, Chess Time, Machinarium, and probably a bunch of others that you’re angry at me right now for not mentioning.
Generally speaking, though, I don’t think iOS games are as great as Apple thinks they are. They’re often full of scammy ways of duping people out of money, or they focus on “amazing graphics” (asterisk: for a phone) at the expense of being fun, and the quality level of games in the App Store is all over the map.
As a result, Apple Arcade has a bit of an inherited cloud hanging over it. Whether or not Apple understands games and gaming enough to make compelling choices for what to include is a fair question. The demos showed in Tuesday’s keynote weren’t that encouraging, frankly. Frogger is one thing (although Crossy Road more than expertly fills that need), but the weird LSD version shown seems like an automatic pass for me.
Here’s the thing though – for $4.99, all Apple has to do is get a couple compelling games into the lineup per month, and it’s more than worth it. If my daughter can find 2 - 3 new games per month she enjoys that I know won’t require IAP to complete or to not frustrate her in the process, that’s a win. Same goes for me, frankly.
I’m reserving complete judgement on Apple Arcade, but at that price, it seems like a no-brainer. For now, I put it in the solid win column.
You may know that I’ve recently become an iPad owner again for the second time with my purchase of a 2019 iPad Air in early June. I’ve been using iOS 13 and iPadOS betas since early days (big mistake, by the way) and iPadOS truly does transform the iPad into something it should have been much, much sooner in its life.
I love the iPad.
So I have mixed emotions about the 7th generation iPad announced on Tuesday. On the one hand, great, they’re keeping the base iPad refreshed and the price is still one of the best deals in tech. On the other hand, the A10 Fusion is three years old now, and it’s the same CPU that was in the 6th generation iPad from a year and a half ago.
By the way, a lot of podcasters in the Apple ecosphere have commented on the oddity of a 10.2” base iPad and a 10.5” iPad Air existing in the same lineup, and I’ll give them that with the caveat that the iPad Air is still more capable and fills a hole in the price range between iPad and iPad Pro models that would be a little more glaring without its existence.
A lot has been made about people walking into Apple stores not understanding the differences between the iPad and iPad Air, but for people who do know what they want out of an iPad but can’t currently justify the cost of the much more expensive iPad Pros, the iPad Air makes pretty good sense.
What Apple does going forward with the iPad Air is definitely up for debate though. What probably makes more sense is for Apple to make the base iPad more capable and get rid of the iPad Air in the next iPad upgrade cycle.
There are a lot of fitness trackers and wearables in the world, but in my admittedly somewhat biased opinion, none of them come close to offering the value of the Apple Watch, even at its sometimes stratospheric prices. Apple gave us some examples why in this really compelling video. It’s definitely worth a watch.1
Apple Watch is a superb blend of fitness tracker, convenience device, communication device, and the best ever alarm clock.2
Not only has it helped people lose weight and get fit, even people who knew how but benefited from daily prompts and metrics to really make it happen, but now Apple Watch is becoming more vital to alerting people to dangerous physical conditions that need addressed immediately.
How much Apple lucked into this feel-good story and how much they foresaw the effect some of the features of Apple Watch would have in people’s lives is anyone’s guess, but this device is one that has been so much better and more important than I could have ever anticipated.
Again, I maintain that the Apple Watch is only overlooked as a wild success due to the huge sales numbers the iPhone has generated in its history.
By the way, I didn’t see always-on screen coming this year either, that’s for sure. I’ve heard mixed second-hand opinions of this feature in Wear OS devices. If it’s as good as Apple claims, it’s ready sooner than I personally expected, and it’s a hugely welcome update to Apple Watch. I don’t know how many times during a workout I’ve been unable to twist my wrist in the exact way my watch requires to illuminate the display, and it annoys me every time.
Apple Watch may be one of the most satisfying to own Apple products ever, and it just keeps getting better.
That’s it for this time. Thanks as always for reading, tell a friend, and contact me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on anything I’ve talked about here, and even things I haven’t.
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