Apple iPhone 6 (image: Ewan Spence)
Taking a look back at another week of news from Cupertino, this week’s Apple Loop covers Forbes’ long-term reviews and comparisons of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, how to choose the right iPad for you, Apple’s Q3 2014 earnings calls, why the iPad is financially slacking, trying to buy something with Apple Pay, moving every developer to 64 bits, and the 5K Retina display vs. the original Macintosh.
Apple Loop is here to remind you of a few of the very many discussions that have happened around Apple over the last seven days.
Returning To Review The iPhone After Four Weeks
Four weeks after the release day reviews of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Gordon Kelly and I have returned to the new handsets to give them both a long-term review after a month of use.
Kelly took the iPhone 6 Plus under the microscope. The huge battery and larger screen are boons, but the design is still an issue:
In terms of design Apple has shot itself in the foot. The iPhone 6 Plus looks great and it superbly well made, but its lack of hand-friendly ergonomics and ludicrously slippery finish are completely nonsensical. Even if you could use the iPhone 6 Plus one-handed it would be dangerous bordering on foolish to do so…
Aside from this there is no denying that the iPhone 6 Plus is the better of the new iPhones. Screen, camera and battery life are all big wins and its new iPad-esque approach to iOS 8 means it can develop major usage benefits compared to the iPhone 6.
I had the iPhone 6, and reviewing the 4.7 inch screen smartphone I found a handset that is competent and fulfils many of the functions, but it does feel like Apple has only done the bare minimum to updated the 5S to the 2014 standard:
One thing that strikes me about the iPhone 6 is the update to the handset has been conservative. The screen is larger, and there are some subtle tweaks to the design of the handset; but fundamentally this is a slightly larger, slightly more powerful, slightly more capable iPhone 5S.
That’s good for long-term Apple users, as it gives them a clear upgrade path (especially if they are coming from an older iPhone such as the 5, 4S, or earlier). The 6 will feel like putting on a comfy pair of slippers, everything is where you expect it, everything works in the same way, and there are no major new skills or shortcuts needed to navigate the UI. It might tempt people who were already considering the iPhone and waiting for the new model, but there is very little here to tempt disheartened Android or Windows Phone users over to Cupertino’s camp.
But Which Is Better? There’s Only One Way To Find Out!
With two handsets that are broadly similar, is there some clear air between the two handsets that would help you decide between the Six and the Six Plus? The good news is that there is clear air , and Gordon Kelly finishes the Loop’s coverage of the iPhone 6 family with a head to head comparison:
Apple’s decision to keep selling previous iPhone and iPad generations has slightly undermined the argument that it only sells premium products at premium prices, but both the new iPhones fit squarely in this category… If you’re sweating over the size jump from the iPhone 5/5S to the iPhone 6 then nothing I say will convince, but there is no doubt that the iPhone 6 Plus is the better device and it offers better value for money.
So Many iPads, Not Enough Hands
While Tim Cook and his team made it easy for the press by holding up one iPad Air 2 and one iPad Mini 3 at last week’s launch event, the current iPad portfolio from Apple has 56 separate units. Forbes’ Mark Rogowsky takes a closer look at the complicated line-up and helps answer the question of “which iPad should I buy“?
The Apple Watch (image: Apple PR)
Is The Apple Watch All About Chinese Calligraphy?
There’s lots of time to speculate about the plans and strategies behind the Apple Watch between September’s announcement and the expected availability in late Q1 2015 of the wearable timepiece. Kieren McCarthy looks at one area of the Apple Watch interface that might prove very popular in China – the gesture based IM client:
As you are probably aware, China, and much of Asia, do not use letters; vowels and consonants. Instead the written language is made up of characters, created by strokes followed in a certain order that often reflect the physical attributes of what they are describing.
…And that is how Chinese characters work – it is not the finished picture that relays the information but the individual strokes built on top of one another. Do the strokes in a different order and they mean something completely different.
That explains another feature of the Watch – tap to vibrate. While this may seem like little more than an opportunity to annoy someone by constantly prodding them, Chinese speakers will use it to alert someone they are about to communicate with. If you don’t see the characters as they are being drawn, you will have a hard time understanding what is being said.
Apple Comfortably Exceeds Expectations During Q3
Apple’s Q3 earnings call on Monday gave the first indications of iPhone sales, along with a revenue numbers that were 12% ahead of Q3 2013, and net income up 13%. Mark Rogowsky takes you through the details of the call, while Chuck Jones looks at the response of the analysts here and here:
I’ll be upfront and reiterate that I own Apple shares but even if I didn’t I believe I’d be hard pressed, especially with the valuation of the shares and the cash it has and will generate, to not think the stock should perform well from $102 and get to $115 to $120 over the next year.
An iPad Is Not Just For One Christmas… It’s For Every Christmas… Forever
The one weak point in the earnings call was that of the iPad. It’s clear that tablets are following a much slower replacement cycle than smartphones, on the order of three or four years between consumers updating their hardware. That reduces income, revenue, and profit, right down the line. Brian Barrett picks up on the problem over on Gizmodo:
If you bought one in the last two and a half years, you have no reason buy another one. None whatsoever. Does your iPad have a Retina display? Good. You can replace it when you accidentally drop it in the toilet, and no sooner.
That’s not to say iPads don’t get progressively better year after year, because they do, because that’s how the steady march of technology works. If you want a tablet to play with, though, there’s a very good chance you’ve already bought one by now. One that still works just fine.
Treat the iPad line like the MacBook line and you have almost matching numbers. Tablet computing is the future, but it’s the future of the PC, not of ‘big smartphones’.
Apple iPad Air 2 (image: Apple.com)
Apple Pay Makes Its Debut In The US
Apple Pay is out, it’s live, and for everyone in America who’s never used an Oyster Card on the London Underground is enjoying the novel experience of contactless payment. Mark Rogowsky headed out with Apple Pay enabled to see what he could buy with his smartphone in a variety of stores, including at least one dead-cert contender:
[The Apple Store]
This had to be a no brainer, right? Well mostly. I picked up an iPhone case I’m not sure I want. (A chance to test out returns via Apple Pay, perhaps.) Paying was fine, except Apple uses mobile terminals for payment and we both had to turn ours to face the other person’s to make the connection. This was awkward and, well, let’s just say this is one of those things that the guy before Tim Cook would have raged about.
Developers Need To Switch To 64-Bit For iOS Apps
Some news from Apple and the continuing efforts to keep third-party developers on the latest operating systems and toolkits. Apple has given three months notice that any new iOS apps uploaded to the App Store “must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK, included in Xcode 6 or later.” This new restriction will come into effect on February 1st 2015.
…Which Means More Zombie iPads
The push forward into iOS 8 and 64-bit computing does leave a little anomaly at the other end of the portfolio. With the original iPad mini still on sale, developers will continue to consider applications running on the A5/512 MB Ram combination of the smallest and cheapest tablet in Apple’s line-up. Allen Pike explains the problem of the Zombie iPads:
Unfortunately, Apple will surely continue support for the A5 in iOS 9. If they do so, we won’t have a mechanism to cut off support for these old iPads mini and iPods touch until iOS 10 has reached wide adoption, likely in early 2017.
…The team at Apple surely thought long and hard before they made this call. They know that supporting the A5 for another iteration of iOS isn’t going to be fun, but at $249 there will be a lot of people finally getting their first iPad. Still, as a developer it’s frustrating not to be able to specifically target modern devices. For years, pundits have railed against Apple for their cycle of obsolescence. For once, we’re overdue for some.
My favorite image of the week comes from Kent Akgungor on Things of Interest. He’s take the promotional image / wallpaper from Apple that is being used to demo the 5K Retina screen of the new iMac, and overlaid the original cutting-edge Macintosh desktop on a pixel for pixel basis.
Macintosh display vs 5K Retina Display (image: Keny Akgungo)
For the record, over 80 Macintosh displays will fit into that 5K screen.
Apple Loop brings you seven days worth of highlights every weekend here on Forbes. Don’t forget to follow me so you don’t miss any coverage in the future. Last week’s Apple Loop can be read here, and don’t forget this week’s edition of Loop’s sister column, Android Circuit, is also available on Forbes.