At the Apple's Core
You could have written the script for Tim Cook's presentation today, just by changing a few words from recent Apple events. "Here's some pretty new stores, with glass staircases and eager customers. Here are some huge numbers and now our new products with every element carefully refined." Everything looks shiny in the world of Apple, but it is becoming the same story, regardless of location and product.
Expecting Apple to innovate its socks off with some new mega experience every 12 months is asking quite a lot, but for a company that sets its standards so high, that's the pressure it faces. Sure, Apple has improved every bit of the iPhone 5, but its now just another smartphone, scrapping over the same feature sets and specifications.
So, there are now 380 Apple stores in 13 countries. Apple's notebooks now account for 27% of US sales and it sold 17 million iPads in the quarter to June, bringing the total to 84 million with its market share up from last year, despite the efforts of many rival products. That makes for a grand total of 400 million iOS devices sold.
On To The Good Stuff
Phil Schiller took over to introduce the new iPhone 5. Made of glass and aluminium it resembles all the recently leaked images, it is 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the 4S. The key features are the new 4-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, running at 1136 x 640 with a retina display of 336 ppi.
That extra space adds an extra row of icons, while all of Apple's apps have been updated to take advantage of the extra space. Some key developers have also been allowed to update their apps ahead of the bundle (expect your App Store update number to start pinwheeling on 19 September when iOS 6 becomes available).
It is not just the size that's improved, the touch sensors are built into the screen, with one less layer, allowing for improved color saturation, up to 44% claim Apple. There's also improved wireless chip with improved WiFi and LTE finally making it into the iPhone.
Heart of the Machine
At the heart is the Apple A6 processor, which offers double the processing and graphics performance on the A5 chip. Again, Apple brought out a games partner, this time EA to show off its wares, Real Racing 3, powered by the new chip. But how big are these, admittedly impressive, games with their increased storage requirements?
They've also improved the camera, adding a dynamic low light mode, To cope with all this extra horsepower, the battery is an unspecified improvement on the iPhone 4S model. To take nice photos, there's a new Panorama mode, as if we don't have enough apps for that already? The front camera is now also HD, allowing for high quality FaceTime, which can be sent over a cellular link (CSP dependent).
More fiddly updates include the use of three microphones, noise cancelling features and wideband audio from the speaker. There is also the new "Lightning" connector lead, to go along with the Mac's Thunderbolt. So much of this must be exciting for the engineer, but as a customer and user it's just so much fluff.
Into the End Game
As expected the iPhone 5, for all the power and beauty is just an upgrade and an end to a means. iOS 6 is what us Apple owners will actually use every day and get a better experience from. As expected, there is the new Maps app with over 100 million points of interest and turn-by-turn directions.
A neat feature is the ability to Tweet or post to Facebook just by tapping the Notification Center, Safari now also matches Google Chrome in its ability to sync bookmarks live between the desktop and phone. Other features have been covered before.
Passbook also got a mention, read about what we think is the most useful new feature here. Of course YouTube is now toast, so you'll have to download Google's new app to get that directly on your phone. Siri has also had an upgrade, and can now recommend movies, can do restaurant reservations and much more, but we wait to see how much of this is enabled around the world.
All of this for the same price points as an iPhone 4S on a two year contract. That's US$199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB iPhone 5 model. iPhone 4S is now down to $99 and the iPhone will be available for free.
Apple also showed off the new iTunes with iCloud integration and many new features, plus iPod Nano and Touch devices with the new design of earbuds. All of these will be available in October. The only trouble with the keynote is that not one single feature was a surprise, except for an appearance by the Foo Fighters at the end, which really makes Tim Cook's "double down on secrecy" note ring hollow.