2 years ago, i published a post on the iPhone 5 after it was announced. Yesterday, the iPhone 6 was announced (along with an Apple watch) so i’ll give my thoughts again…
The iPhone 5 was a big disappointment for me for several reasons. At the time, i complained it didn’t come with NFC and also complained about the lack of movement in the area of mobile payments. I expected both to be addressed two years ago but they weren’t. Here’s what i said at the time:
“I would’ve thought Apple would be desperate to replace people’s wallets before anyone else and introduce NFC in a bid to open up a whole new market but they seem content to stick to what they have and take smaller steps forward, testing the waters with what is a sort of ‘virtual’ NFC app in ‘Passbook’. It basically stores & organises receipts & vouchers or anything with a bar code on them from certain partners. So in theory you could have a balance on your McDonalds account, walk in and buy a burger, then scan a bar code located within the Passbook app which would deduct money from your account.
Pretty cool, if merchants will use it but i’m not convinced it’s the future of mobile commerce… it just seems a little ‘stop gap’ for my liking. Really, the same thing could be done by email or in a browser, PassBook is just a neat way of organising bar codes. Having said that, PassBook is easier & cheaper to deploy and update than new NFC hardware plus it buys them a little more time to plan something a bit more ‘revolutionary’ if indeed they’re going to plan it at all…”
Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 6 will come with NFC and they also announced ‘Apple Pay’ – Apple’s new payment system. Who would’ve predicted it, eh? To me, these things needed to happen… sooner rather than later… they were almost inevitable for several reasons. The main reason being that once Apple devices are used as wallets or credit cards (storing or controlling our money), we (as consumers) are tied to Apple products long term. We’re no longer buying iPhones for emotional / familiarity reasons, we’re buying them because the cost of switching to another platform would be too great and painful for us…
Nobody moves banks. People get divorced quicker than they change banks. Now that Apple have ventured down this road of mobile payments, Apple doesn’t become a bank but they effectively become a necessary middle man between our credit cards and retailers. They don’t handle any cash, but they make transactions easier for both retailers and customers. It’s a win-win for all involved, and the biggest winners are Apple. Not only do we consumers become more attached to Apple, retailers do too. We’re gonna use our phones more and more as wallets. We’ll start to associate Apple with that feel-good feeling we get when buying things over the counter or even online. We’ll be conditioned to associate our iPhones with our purchasing power… with that rush of dopamine.
Retailers will be forced to use Apple products to accept our money due to the sheer volume of people with iPhones (although right now it’s only the iPhone 6 that will work with Apple Pay). Retailers will have to upgrade regularly to accommodate the latest and greatest Apple products… this is why i felt NFC & mobile payments were inevitable and it would appear Apple were thinking the exact same thing.
The iPhone 6
I wasn’t a fan of the leaked photos and in particular the rear design of the iPhone 6. The leaked photos turned out to be real and now that we’ve seen some video and high definition photos, the iPhone 6 looks a lot better. Not a radical change from the iPhone 5/5S, but i do believe it’s a small improvement. Everything looks smoother and i believe the buttons will be easier to press and access. The volume buttons are now long, rectangular shapes and the power button has been moved from the top of the device to the right side which makes more sense given the fact the larger phone in particular is too large to switch off or power on with one hand.
As expected, there will be two versions of the iPhone 6… the iPhone 6 (4.7 inch) and the iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inch). The iPhone 6 will be slightly larger than the 5S. The iPhone 6 Plus will be significantly longer / wider. Here’s how they’ll compare…
The iPhone 6 Plus will be €100 more expensive than the iPhone 6 *but* it comes with a slightly better battery life and better camera technology. The iPhone 6 Plus comes with ‘Optical Image Stabilization’ which just means the camera lens will move around trying to reduce blur and make up for your shaky hand. The iPhone 6 doesn’t come with this technology and instead just uses a software based stabilization system, which we can only assume is inferior (it is on paper, but whether the difference is noticeable in real life remains to be seen). I’m sure it won’t be long until we see side by side comparisons of photos taken with both devices.
Other camera improvements include 240 fps super slow-mo video. To get an idea of what that is like, I shot this Ice Bucket Challenge video at 200 fps on a point and shoot camera. The iPhone 6’s recording will be much prettier, higher resolution (up to 720p) and even a tad slower…
The screen on both iPhones will be better. Although the naked eye can’t actually distinguish between pixels on an existing iPhone, Apple have decided to add more pixels in for the craic anyway… (from 326 pixels per inch to 401 pixels per inch on the iPhone 6 Plus). Improvements have also been made to contrast ratios and backlights meaning blacks will be blacker and white will be whiter… in short, the screens on both devices will be ridiculously crisp / clear and nobody will be complaining about screen colour / clarity.
The two new iPhones also come with a faster processor but interestingly the RAM hasn’t improved. Its still 1GB, the same as it is in the 5S. RAM size by itself doesn’t mean anything but more RAM would allow Apple to create more powerful features and introduce more multitasking improvements, however more RAM would also equal a reduction in battery life so that’s probably why Apple are choosing to make do with 1GB RAM for the time being. Nobody wants an inferior battery.
The big feature though in my opinion is the introduction of NFC… not just for payments, but it opens up a whole new world. You can in theory open doors, lock doors, start cars, turn on and off lights all simply by walking around with a phone in your pocket.
Apple announced Apple Watch yesterday and gave a small presentation of how people can check in to hotels and be able to open their hotel room door just by swiping their wrist over the door handle. That’s what NFC allows you to do, but that’s just tip of the iceberg stuff…
The frustrating thing is, Apple Payments will only work in the US for the time being. NFC access will probably be restricted to Apple partners, so it’s gonna be years before this technology becomes commonly used. If you have an iPhone 5S, upgrading to a 6 doesn’t really make sense unless you want a bigger phone with a slightly better camera and battery life.
iPhone 6 Competition
Whilst Apple claim the iPhone 6 is the best phone ever created by anyone, the reality is there are phones with better hardware and better features out there. For the first time ever, i’d now say there are also better *looking* phones out there or at least phones on a par with the iPhone’s aesthetics.
The Sony Xperia Z3 looks quite nice… it’s probably one of the iPhone 6’s biggest rivals along with the Samsung Galaxy S5. What can it do better than the iPhone 6? It’s waterproof. Yep. You can take that thing underwater (out of the box – no cases needed) and take photos and videos with it underwater. If you drop it in to the toilet, you don’t have to worry about water damage (which is the way an alarming number of phones get destroyed). That’s just cool. A waterproof phone. It also shoots video in 4k ultra definition format… 4 times the detail of the iPhone 6’s 1080p recording format… that’s also quite incredible…
The Z3 also comes with more RAM (3gb -v- 1gb), faster processor, a higher capacity battery (3,100 mAh -v- 1,810 mAh)… and let’s not forget the iPhone 6 comes with a 16GB harddrive which in 2014, is pretty pathetic. The reason they do that is to get users to pay for iCloud storage. The Xperia also comes with 16GB but has a microSD slot, meaning you can easily expand its storage at any time (up to 128GB).
On paper, the iPhone 6 is an inferior phone in a lot of ways. Certainly not as industry-leading as Apple would make you believe… but the Z3 ultimately falls short. Although it has cool features (waterproof phones should be the norm), it also lacks a fingerprint scanner… people switching from iPhones won’t be too impressed with that. Manually typing in passwords? That’s going backwards… going backwards in any area isn’t acceptable. Apple are rarely first to introduce any new technology / feature but when they do introduce it, it sort of just works seamlessly and becomes the norm.
I’ve no doubt we’ll see a waterproof iPhone in the future. I also believe we’ll see wireless charging in a future iPhone. 4k video recording too. This is technology that is around today and is available in other phones today but just not all combined in one device with existing features we use and love. All of Apple’s rivals just seem to be missing one or two features that might tempt people like me away from Apple… the Galaxy S5 is splash / dust resistant and comes with a heart rate sensor which are both cool technologies but a bit too gimmicky. Nobody wants a splash proof phone. They want a waterproof phone. And a heart rate sensor is cool but not very useful on a phone that will sit in your pocket all day.
In order for me to switch from an iPhone, the hardware needs to match everything the iPhone has and then exceed it. Then it becomes an OS decision… is Android a better OS? Can i break free from the Apple eco-system? Up until now i’d have said maybe. With Apple Payments and NFC now in place, i don’t believe any competitors can prize me away from the iPhone. iPhone users are going to become even more attached than ever before to Apple once they start paying in stores using their phone.
I don’t like smart watches in general but I would buy one and i’ll explain under what circumstances later. Overall, I feel Apple did a poor job of presenting the Apple Watch. We watched someone fiddle about on stage with a tiny screen showing us the solar system and how planets are positioned… we watched someone take several minutes to respond to a text message through the watch, during which time he could have whipped out his phone and done it… the Apple Watch will not work without an iPhone so which is a pretty big deal yet something Apple mentioned only as a footnote.
It’s as if Apple presented a new nano ipod with a strap on it and failed to focus on the stuff that makes the Apple Watch useful… the sensors.. the fitness / health angle. This is the reason why i’d buy a smart watch. If a watch could track my heart-rate, body temperature, blood pressure, sleeping patterns, altitude, location, steps taken, i’d buy it. The Apple Watch can do some of that stuff but a lot of it was just glossed over which leads me to believe the apps and data gathered is all pretty primitive at the minute.
I want to see that stuff graphed over time and i want to to alert me if my heart-rate drops to abnormally low levels or starts producing abnormal patterns. I want to see my sleeping patterns graphed over time and see whether there’s any correlation between body temperature, heart-rate and sleeping patterns. I want to know if i sleep better on days where i take more steps and i want to know whether travelling long distances has any impact on my sleep… or whether, on average my heart rate is faster in a foreign city than my home town…
Get that in to a watch and i’ll buy it. That *should* have been the angle Apple took to present the Apple watch… “leave this thing on your wrist 24/7 and it’ll help you learn about yourself and might save your life”. Instead, to me it just came across as a newly designed nano ipod on your wrist. And because you need an iPhone for it to work, the question is “how will you use your watch?”… my answer is “i won’t use it at all other than to check the time and perhaps quickly glance to see if I’ve got any messages / notifications”. Is it worth spending an additional €350 for that type of functionality? No. For me, smart watches aren’t smart enough yet.
If i actually wore watches, i may be tempted but i don’t wear watches and haven’t for a long time. I can see them slowly becoming more useful over time but i think it’ll take 2 or 3 generations of Apple Watches *at least* before they become more than just a gimmick.