Apple has been in the spotlight all year, as analysts think the company has lost its ability to innovate and enter new product categories. With Steve Jobs having passed, Apple has needed to prove doubters that they still are the best when it comes to entering existing categories and turning them on their back. Last week, Apple announced an all-new, redesigned iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, making their formal entry into the larger smartphone and phablet market, long dominated by Android handsets. But the bigger news is their entry into the wearable space with Apple Watch.
With a 4.7″ Retina HD display, iPhone 6 will be the more popular of the two devices due to its smaller size. At 5.5″, iPhone 6 Plus is a monster, coming in at about the same size as most mainstream Android devices on the market. The Samsung Galaxy Note is same size, and their flagship Galaxy S5 is in between at 5.1″. What Apple did in iOS 8, however, is make iPhone 6 Plus easier to use with one hand. The software, when enabled, pushes all content on the screen to the lower half, making it more manageable to use. This is a great way to differentiate itself from the other phablets on the market, while still maintaining that their devices can be used with one hand.
iPhone 6 is a complete redesign and it looks beautiful. The only thing that I take issue with is that it’s not completely flat in the back – the camera ring sticks out slightly. This is very un-Apple in terms of design. My guess is that they couldn’t get their camera needs met in the thin design. But my bigger question is this, unrelated to the camera: what happens with iPhone 5s, their 4″ model? There’s still a massive market for that size, which means Apple should continue to update it. Whether they will is yet to be seen. I understand why it wasn’t updated this year, but next year, Apple should continue upgrading that size device, or they risk losing a large audience. Their lineup should consist of all three sizes: 4″, 4.7″ and 5.5″.
In terms of technology, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has it all. Improved Touch ID, new NFC chip for use with Apple Pay, A8 chip, M8 motion coprocessor and iOS 8. The only area iPhone lacked when competing with Android was screen size, which they’ve answered. Sure, they’re late to the game, but they always are.
While new iPhones always get most of the attention, it was Apple’s move into the wearable market that arguably garnered more headlines. Apple Watch is more than a smartwatch, but it also lacks a clear focus as to what it does best, which, again, is very un-Apple. First and foremost, the watch is beautiful. It’s clear that they took many steps to make the device look like a watch. Many fashion websites applauded the multiple bands that are available, making Apple Watch very customizable and personal. It’s completely new territory for Apple.
So what does Apple Watch do? First of all, it needs to be tethered to your iPhone, which is a drawback. That’s how it gets wifi and GPS access. I suspect that will change in future version as technology shrinks in size. It’s a fitness device, tracking your steps and workout activity; it’s a watch, too; and it also is a notification center for many alerts that are sent to your iPhone. At a $349 base price, which will likely jump to over $1,000 with the gold version, from a watch perspective, it’s inline with mid-tier watches on the market today that only tell time.
The wearable market is unknown, as was the smartphone and tablet market before Apple upended those. They have a strong track record of entering existing categories and taking them to the stratosphere. But even I’ll admit this: the Apple Watch is different. I think it lacks a clear value proposition – it simply does too much. It may very well do all of these things very well, but that is unknown. We know Apple is not pleased with its one-day battery life and hopes to possibly extend that before its released early next year, but that’s yet to be seen. A first generation product always looks lackluster – think back to the original iPhone and iPad. The iPhone didn’t even have a GPS chip or 3G! That changed, of course, but it didn’t stop pundits from pointing out the flaws.
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be the best selling iPhones, as is every new iPhone model. This will help Apple increase market share in countries like India and China, where the smartphone is typically their only device, making a larger screen more important to them. The first chapter of Apple Watch is unknown. The wearable market does not have a leader and outside of the Moto 360, most of the devices don’t even look good. Apple Watch is beautiful, but its purpose needs to be defined, which I suspect it will at launch time.