Watch the Cloud

For weeks, Apple teased a special event for the morning of September 9th. Instead of a usual invitation, there was a countdown clock. Apple even redirected their main site to the countdown clock. This was going to be so big. Everyone should pay attention to this. Apple would even be running their own liveblog of the event, in addition to streaming video. They were planning on controlling the message on this incredibly important event. They didn’t want this news to filter down through the press, being shaped by the press’ inevitable cynicism of Apple events.

Unfortunately, everything fell apart. The live streaming was in a constant state of skipping through time, freezing, or flat-out denying access. Even when the live stream was working, their audio was all over the place. In the pre-show, they broadcast music over other music. In the event, they broadcast a translator’s feed over the presenter’s talking, at the same volume. This was, unequivocally, a disaster for managing the story they wanted to tell to customers.

I feel terrible for the people trying to manage the event. There’s no, “give me an hour” on a live show. There’s not the chance to come back and do this tomorrow. There’s a whole auditorium full of press. While I do feel bad, this is hardly the first time this has happened. This was, however, the most severe. It’s worse for Apple than it is for me, here on my couch. This failure means they are not getting what they want from their event — control.

Pick an iPhone — Any iPhone

This was not surprising to anyone paying attention to the rumors, and the conjecture. Even though I did not seek any leaked photos, sites still posted them to Twitter and I saw them. We got the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. They are both larger phones than the preceding iPhones. Last year’s iPhone 5s and 5c will stick around — presumably for people that would like cheaper phones, or smaller phones. People that want the latest-and-greatest, in a small package, are at a distinct disadvantage. I do question how big of a deal this will be.

My identity has not been tied to the things I buy for many years. I’ll buy Guava Goddess Kombucha, and fancy wines, or I’ll buy a grouper sandwich in a Florida dive with a Yuengling. It doesn’t say anything about me. iPhones are just things, there’s such an abundance of similar things that it hardly matters. Sure, when I was a kid, and my mom bought off-brand stuff I would be embarrassed, but there are larger concerns than Apple not specifically crafting an iPhone around what I think I want. Big ones, small ones, whatever. I keep an open mind, because I’m a generous soul.

Looking at the lineup, and my antique iPhone 4, I’m leaning towards the iPhone 6. It will be a huge change for me, but I have the cargo shorts to pull it off. (No really, cargo shorts are amazing. Don’t read this, Matt Alexander.)

The Plus is enticing to me because “optical image stabilization” sounds like a great thing to have. Then I thought about that for 5 seconds and remembered that it’s so tiny, it’s probably not the most effective optical image stabilization there is.

The fitness features honestly mean nothing to me. I know there are people that measure runs, and that this (like all bits-o-fitness) is advertised as something to motivate me. Tim underestimates my laziness. They are theoretically neat, but feel like they’d be more at home on a Samsung phone than an Apple one.

Pay Apple

The tech press got themselves in to a lather over NFC payments again. They do this, from time to time, but this event managed to actually pull off their prediction.

They did a bungling, late-night infomercial to lead in to this and it drove me up the wall. Not a single female presented in this event, but they made sure to show overstuffed purses. “Does this happen to you?” BOING! Cards everywhere.

I sincerely question the implementation of this service. From the demonstration, all you have to do is take a photo of a card. This seems… not very secure to me. Perhaps credit card companies are also verifying that the photographed card is being used on a phone that has the phone number of the cardholder on file? I’m not entirely sure. It does make me wary. They also show that it’s linked in to Passbook. I’ve used Passbook, and it’s kind of a mess. Instead of people looking for cards in their overstuffed purses, they’ll be looking for them by swiping around on a glass slab that has no tactile indications of what you’re touching. Then scanning their fingerprints with the Touch ID scanner, which sometimes gets fingerprints wrong. I can’t wait until I’m in line behind someone that’s not ready with the card they want pulled up on screen. It’ll be like being behind someone with a personal check.

The really strange thing is when they made a big deal about how secure this was, and then they showed an Apple Watch being able to make purchases. That doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner. Is it just authorized to work as long as it’s in proximity to your phone? Then someone would just need to take your phone and your watch. Do you have to use Touch ID every so often to confirm the watch and phone are still in your possession? Because then it kind of defeats the purpose of the watch being a payment method.

There are just a lot of questions. I am not coming down against it, but I do want to see how this works for people in real life. When Passbook was introduced, many people wrote that it was Apple’s answer to NFC. That the NFC sensors didn’t exist, so it just made more sense to use scanned codes. Who really uses Passbook? I am at a loss to think of anyone in my life, but perhaps there’s a very large, dedicated community of users I’m unaware of.

Status Symbol

The Apple Watch, a long-rumored device, finally made its big debut today. People loved it, and people hated it. People are the worst. It does things that are, in a purely technical sense, amazing. However, it does a lot of really weird stuff that seems totally outside the mandate of a teeny-tiny device for my wrist.

I am not sure where the Apple Watch is aimed. It includes a dizzying list of features that would entice any Android smart watch owner to consider it. It requires an iPhone, of course. It’s $350, which is more expensive than many entry-level, on-contract iPhones, but it is a watch.

If you’re a bro with a G-Shock, or hipster with a Seiko, it might seem exorbitant to charge this — a king’s ransom — for that kind of a watch. For those that love Automatic Swiss watches, this is a paltry sum. However, the lovers of those Automatic Swiss watches do not want features, they want exclusive, meticulously crafted jewels. The G-Shock owners want those features, and they don’t care about rubber, plastic, or mass-market, quartz timekeeping.

It is very peculiar that Apple chose to walk the line between the two. There are fussy materials, but not the craftsmanship. It’s cheap as dirt compared to Tissot, but it’s too expensive for Timex. It’s G-Shockingly ugly, and bulbous, but it’s glossy and sleek. Who is this for?

I had known before the event that the device would not appeal to me because I don’t wear any watch at all. I am in the camp that feels like cellphones cover all of my timekeeping needs. I’ve never felt like my notifications are too far away, or unreachable (cargo shorts) so it seemed unlikely Apple would have invented something that would sway me towards wearing a watch. That’s just an honest perspective, and not a judgment.

This is actually a huge relief to me. There is no super-special feature here that I would feel locked out of. No exclusive ability that would make me ashamed. Just a “smart watch”. I will be glad to see it find a home with other people, and see those people come up with creative, and useful ways to explore what a wrist device can do, but I’ll catch up to them later if I feel like it.

Cloudy Horizons

Today’s event did nothing to allay concerns about Apple’s cloud infrastructure. They can’t organize and host their own events reliably, like Google can, they still have data plans that don’t seem to really keep pace with their competition. Their headline feature from WWDC, Continuity, was removed from betas weeks ago.

Todays event was about devices, but I was never really concerned about devices. There would be a new iPhone. There would be stuff for people to buy. Where’s the focus on what connects these things?

Apple, don’t be scared of cloud stuff, or it will be a bigger threat than an unannounced watch. Get the services right Apple, everyone else is. Understand it. Key in the sequence, Tim.

2014-09-09 16:25:20

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