Another September, another Apple Event. Apple’s relentless annual rhythm grinds on, and the tech media has gathered expectantly around to see what pops out – or rather, to check the accuracy of the rumors that have already been extensively reported.
For me, that’s the real story of this Special Event. The secrecy and mystery cloaking Apple announcements seems to be almost gone, as is the frisson of excitement that used to surround the opening of the keynote. In the past even if there were rumours, there was usually at least one curveball. This year, if you happened to have read AppleInsider, or Ars Technica the day before, there was virtually no need for you to watch the keynote. Every significant announcement was anticipated, often in remarkable detail.
Apple has two major announcements per year. Software updates are typically announced at WWDC in June and increasingly, the September event has included a re-hash of that content. Swift Playgrounds, iOS 10, Siri, Messages, macOS Sierra and Messages were all covered again (if briefly). Leaving aside the lack of surprise and the issues caused by Apple’s own hectic schedule, it’s still remarkable how low-key (or downright derogatory) much of the commentary about today’s event has been.
The iPhone 7 is water resistant so that your tears can run across it after you lose your headphones
— Nathan Miller (@nathan_CCMiller) September 8, 2016
Hey other bad ideas imma let you finish, but the new iPhone not having a headphone jack is the worst idea of all time.
— Ben Rector (@benrector) September 7, 2016
— Mashable (@mashable) September 7, 2016
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) September 7, 2016
— ThioJoe (@thiojoe) September 7, 2016
Did they announce a 1 trillion GB iPhone yet so that stupid storage thing will stop popping up? ? #AppleEvent
— Mason Healy (@masehealy) September 7, 2016
Let’s be clear: to release a new iteration of the iPhone every twelve months is an astonishing, astounding achievement. That’s without even taking into account the fact that every new iteration of an Apple device is better in almost every quantifiable way. Apple has been so successful that they’re now expected to ‘put a ding in the universe’ on an annual basis. Did they do that this year? No. But are the iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2 great products that millions of people will buy? Absolutely, yes.
Let’s start with a look at the Apple Watch. Two big changes here; it’s now waterproof, and it includes its own GPS. Going along with waterproofing is comprehensive support for logging swimming as an activity, making the Watch an even more compelling option for the dedicated fitness quant. The GPS is another step down the path to phone-independence for the Apple Watch. Next year perhaps we’ll see the long-rumored cellular connectivity. Tellingly, no mention was made of the Series 2 battery life. MacRumors reports that a larger battery will probably offset the new GPS for an overall battery life of about the same as the original.
Moving on to the iPhone, the biggest news is the removal of the headphone jack. Apple have never been shy about removing peripherals, and this one is a particularly smart move. The gamble is that the world is going wireless anyway, and by being the first to go all-in with a flagship device they get the jump on the competition. In true Apple fashion they’ve managed to make bluetooth audio (a fifteen year old technology) news again just by doing it better. Although I will say that just about any earpiece without a cable, whether narrated by Jony Ive or not, still ends up looking like a sleeker version of business guy.
Apple made a fair amount of noise about the new home button and taptic engine. Like the removal of the headset jack, these changes have been made primarily to enable a sleeker overall package, which is now water and dust resistant. It’s also noteworthy that they’ve finally removed the 16gb storage tier from iPads and iPhones. That verges on overdue when you consider the watch originally shipped with 8gb. There’s a laundry list of other now-standard year-on-year improvements (faster processor, longer battery life, better camera) but in general there isn’t much here that’s game-changing.
Strategically, it’s interesting to see the focus and attention given to the ConnectED programme. Watching the keynote, you can see a wealth of content aimed at younger users and their parents. Mario, Pokémon Go, ConnectED, iWork, Swift Playgrounds, and even new stickers and emoji in Messages. Apple appears to be competing for the attention of the next generation.
When it comes to the impact on businesses, again there’s very little that’s new in this announcement. Apple Pay marches on, now available in Japan and heavily used for contactless payments in the US. The loss of the headphone jack will have some impact on Square and other peripheral manufacturers that currently take advantage of it, but that’s mostly likely to affect hobbyists.
While on the topic of Apple. On the back of their announcements this week, we had our own release this week – Two-Step Authentication for Xero for iOS, an additional layer of security for all Xero customers that helps ensure accounts are not compromised by phishing scams or malware. Two-Step Authentication for Xero for iOS verifies the identity of a customer logging into the Xero dashboard by requiring them to use their existing password and a second, unique code randomly generated by the Google Authenticator app on their smartphone. The additional authentication step makes it much more difficult for unauthorised people to access their Xero account.
In this day and age where phishing scams are on the increase Two Step Authentication is a must for businesses to keep their information secure.