Today was the big day, Tim Cook made his debut appearance without the esteemed Mr. Jobs, to announce all the new things that Apple has had up it sleeve. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, the new iPhone has been a long overdue addition to Apple’s technology lineup. Unfortunately, this event wasn’t televised or streamed, so I had to rely on liveblogs from the Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) and Engadget to keep me informed this afternoon. The event was held at 10am PST, and the liveblogs began rolling around 1pm EST. I won’t go into gross detail about what happened at the presentation, if you want, Engadget had some great coverage with photos, so you should head over there if you want all the nitty gritty. But the big things were the announcements of the new iPod Nano, iPod Touch, IOS 5 features, and lastly, the new iPhone. The iPhone 4S is the new model for this year, and the only new model, no iPhone 5, as the internet rumor mill surmised.
So, what are my thoughts about today’s events? Well, the improvements Apple has been putting into IOS5 are welcome and much needed. Here are some of the changes:
- Better notifications – Borrowing heavily from Android’s less annoying notification system, you no longer have to deal with annoying modal pop up alerts, which pretty much freezes up your entire iPhone until you dismiss it. Instead, alerts are queued up into a list that is visible on the home screen, or from a notification screen which appears with a swipe down gesture.
- Camera from the Home Screen – Now you can access the camera without swiping to unlock your phone!
- Volume + for Shutter – Now you don’t need to touch the damn screen to actually take a picture!
- Twitter integration – Now send your stuff to Twitter faster!
- Tabbed browsing for Safari – Finally!
- NewStand App – a new app for periodical subscriptions.
- Messaging between IOS devices – this one is interesting, it’s sort of like free text messaging between IOS devices, so now I can use this to text my wife without having to worry about going over our text message limit!
- Cards App – this one is also interesting, Apple looks like their getting into the print on demand business, so you can create greeting cards, and if you want, they’ll create a physical copy and send it out for you. I’m not exactly too sure how useful this is, but it’s sort of a kick in the pants for Hallmark and all those other card printing services out there. As Tim Stevens over at Engadget put it, “”Hallmark, you just got served!”.
- Find My Friends– this is an app that lets you share your geolocation so others can find you, which can be good and bad… But there are some safeguards, such as parental controls and only allowing this service on temporarily. So, this could be handy if you actually need to try and guide people to your location.
- iCloud integration – For those that don’t know, this is sort of a big deal, and a bit of a game changer. Apple is offering cloud based storage for your iTunes content, so all the apps, music, books and stuff you buy, will be stored on their systems. This is similar to what Amazon is offering. The great thing about this is, in my case, I can finally offload all those apps I bought from my hard drive back to Apple, and I can pull them down when I need them. As a plus, they’re offering 5GB of storage space free, for non-iTunes content, which is pretty generous, considering places like Dropbox only offer 2GB free. Other bonuses are the syncing of contacts, calendar events across all your devices (although this could be unwanted if you share your account with your family).
- Siri Assistant – An iPhone 4S exclusive, this is a voice activated assistant where you can dictate instructions to your phone, such as “What is the Weather”, or other commands which will search the internet for information, such as stocks and points of interest. The Siri Assistant will also be available to perform dictation tasks. Apple spent quite a bit of time demoing this feature, which looks to be quite powerful.
Now onto the iPhone 4S. I’ll be honest with you here, The iPhone 4S does bring some nice evolutionary enhancements to the iPhone, but I’m a bit disappointed in this offering. I’ll explain after I spout out the details:
- A5 Dual-Core Processor – This is the same processor found in the iPad, so it’s got more punch under the hood, so graphically this thing is going to pack a more serious punch.
- 8 Megapixel Camera – Apple’s put a nice camera in the iPhone, it can now take 1080p video, and the optics can go to an f-stop of f2.4, which basically means better low light imaging. Color clarity should be better, with image stabilization, noise reduction, and the camera software has face recognition. Apple is also saying the camera will cycle on faster, so you can start shooting sooner. The camera is probably one of the more significant upgrades in the 4S.
- Better Antenna – after last years iPhone 4 antenna fiasco, Apples incorporating the re-designed antenna from the Verizon version into the 4S. So reception shouldn’t be an issue.
- World Phone – it’s got both the hardware for CDMA and GSM, so what this means is people that travel abroad can use their phones a bit easier.
- Better Battery – this one is a welcome addition, since the iPhone has historically been a power monger. Apple claims 8 hours of talk time.
- 64GB Storage – For the first time, Apple now offers a 64GB version for space hogs like me!
So, with all the awesomeness Apple put on display today, why do I feel disappointed… Well, it’s because externally, nothing has changed. Yeah, I know that it may be hard to improve upon something so elegant, but truthfully, i wanted a bigger screen. The iPhone has an awesome Retina display, which can pack in serious resolution into a small screen. That’s fine and all, but my old eyes can’t appreciate them as much. For example, Final Fantasy Tactics for the iPhone is unplayable for me, because I can barely read the damn text! I was really hoping for a display maybe just an inch bigger. But alas, it’s the same physical form factor. Interestingly, my wife told me that one reason why they may have kept the form factor the same was to appease all the peripheral manufacturers that have invested heavily in making cases and accessories for the iPhone 4… An intriguing theory. But truly this new iPhone is a “SAFE” update. I suppose the disappointment may be because Apple has been, for so long, in the role of revolutionizing leader, and with how long it took them to announce a new phone, it seems a let down. I guess it’s a case of their own marketing hype’s undoing by setting expectations so high that it overshadows the improvements the 4S has. I still won’t be deterred from getting one though. My wife’s 3GS is up for an upgrade, so I’ll be upgrading her phone to a 4S. I’ll write back later on my impressions once I get my hands on the phone.
Thanks for reading and feel free to send me your thoughts.
UPDATE: Oh, before I sign off for the evening… I thought it was interesting that Tim Cook touted how important the Chinese market was, but yet, China isn’t on the list of iPhone 4S recipients… How odd is that… So what we’ll see now is a flood of US bought iPhone 4S’s illegally smuggled into China to be sold for ridiculous amounts of cash. Nice move!