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Thoughts on Apple’s September 2014 Event

 

For Tim Cook and Apple, this was obviously one of those company-defining events that don’t happen very often. Cook had pretty much confirmed that they would be announcing a new product category in comments earlier in the year and also by the venue: the Flint Centre in Cupertino was previously used to announce the original iMac and the first iPhone. So, what of the much-anticipated “iWatch”, and of the iPhone 6?

iPhone 6

buystrip_hero_largeQuite a lot of the details had already been leaked by Chinese manufacturers, so we knew that there would be a 4.7” phone and probably a 5.5” one. In terms of the aesthetics I’m happy to see the rounded edges (the iPhone-shaped imprint in every pair of jeans I own is embarrassing), but the protruding camera lens had me wondering whether Steve Jobs would have allowed that to be announced. Still, it’s de rigeur these days… The phones are significantly thinner than the already slim iPhone 5s, so maybe that’s a reason for the bulge. I’ve always had my iPhones in cases anyway so hopefully that would make it flat?

The display details are of particular interest to us, as we have to make sure our games look their best on all the popular screen resolutions, although the new iPhones will automatically upscale from the iPhone 5’s retina display. The larger Plus phone has a standard 1080×1920 screen, as used in the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Nexus 5. That’s great and means that we can support that with ease (I’ll explain our “display metrics” system another day). The iPhone 6’s 750×1334 screen is quite, um, unique though, so I’m guessing we’ll use the common Android 720×1280 resolution and spread things out a bit.

While the iPhone 6’s screen keeps exactly the same “retina” 326 pixels per inch, the Plus has a rather tighter 401. Obviously our eyes have improved 23% since Steve said that the iPhone 4’s retina display was basically as good as you need. But hey, at least it’s not the LG G3’s insane 538 ppi. Apple don’t usually ramp up specs just for numerical superiority.

Other than that, the new iPhones are predictably faster, have a better camera (though interestingly they’ve again gone for better optics while keeping the megapixels the same) and supposedly better battery life.

Apple Pay

The era of the ‘i’ has passed: maybe it’s just getting too expensive to buy up the trademarks these days. Apple Pay is basically a combination of the new iPhones’ NFC capabilities (Apple always get there in the end), the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, and another new secure chip for storing payment identity details. As usual, Apple, being an American tech company, announce this all as if the whole world still uses the magnetic strips on their credit cards. No, most of us can already use ‘contactless’ payments. Oh well!

That said, Apple Pay seems to be a well thought-through and seamless system which does tick the boxes in terms of convenience and security. But if you might be going to a store that doesn’t support contactless (and maybe it actually needs to be Apple-specific software on the terminal) then you’ll need those credit cards…

Apple Watch

See, no “i” here either! The Apple Watch looked surprisingly unsurprising to me… The round Moto 360 is significantly more exciting to look at. It looks quite thick, which is always a turn-off for me when it comes to watches. But Apple have understood that watches need to be more personalised than phones, so it’s good to see a wide range of different styles of straps and three different materials for the watch itself. Gold, if you so desire!

In terms of the software, things seem pretty well thought-through for a 1.0 release. Nice virtual watch faces, good Siri voice control, tidy integrations with email, calendar, messages etc. The ability to communicate with other Apple Watch users via a virtual (tiny) scribble pad looks quite interesting – I can imagine partners or friends building up a library of pictograms for common interactions.

Some pre-event coverage suggested an on-watch App Store, which seemed like a recipe for chaos to me. What they’ve actually done is made watch apps extensions of (the mandatory) iPhone’s apps, via “WatchKit” (which joins a long line of kits such as StoreKit, HealthKit and MapKit). I couldn’t discern from the video how sophisticated this is, though it seemed to enable some quite elaborate graphics, interactions and hardware integration. I wonder what the possibilities are for games? Could something like “2048” with its purely swipe-based control be made to work on there? How about long-term games where you need to tend to your crops/troops etc? There’s certainly some opportunity for exposure from Apple for developers that can do unique things here.


The new iPhones will be available from the 19th of this month, so as usual there’s not long for developers to think about getting games updated in time for launch! But how about Apple Watch, coming in the new year? How about something that works with that…?

 

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