Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s Event

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Yesterday, John Gruber of Daring Fireball and The Talk Show fame posted a dissemination of the goings on from Apple’s iPhone XS/XS Max/XR and Watch Series 4 event last Tuesday. I read the whole thing and a few things absolutely jumped out at me and I wanted to cover them, here.

The space

Last year, John talked about the new Steve Jobs theater. This year, he reminisced on the entire idea of having these kinds of events at such an exclusive location:

[W]hat the Steve Jobs Theater provides that no venue in San Francisco ever could is seclusion. Apple Park really feels like it is its own world. Putting “Park” in the complex’s name was exactly right. In terms of sight lines and feeling like you’re isolated from the rest of the world, the effect is very similar to being in one of the theme parks at Walt Disney World. As you walk the pathway uphill from the Visitor Center to the theater, ambient music plays from hidden speakers. The only thing man-made you can see from the pavilion atop the Steve Jobs Theater is Apple Park’s Ring building, seemingly on the horizon.

One hundred percent. I can imagine the level of detail Apple went into to create a space that didn’t feel like _just an ordinary event venue_. Anyone can hold a press conference at a hotel, expo/convention center, or stadium. Apple has to do it their own way. In these reveals, Apple strives for intimacy, to make you feel like it’s just you and Tim, Phil, and the gang. There’s no way they could pull off that range of emotions in a place like Moscone.

John goes on to mention that they hold but a couple events there a year. From Apple’s perspective, that’s absolutely acceptable. This space wasn’t meant to be a place where something is discussed every six weeks. I can imagine the company doesn’t even hold much in the way of internal events there. The Steve Jobs Theater is an architectural expression of Steve Jobs himself.

The Watch

Both John and I agree the Watch stole the show. Hands down the Watch quickly became the biggest deal this year. A reduction yet increase in size (thickness versus screen dimensions and pixels), ECG, improved cellular (thanks to the ceramic back), new faces that took complication display to the next level, and probably the single coolest feature of all: the I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up mode. Fall and stay still for one minute and the Watch will summon either emergency services or an emergency contact. How freaking cool is that? It seems like a no brainer, but detecting a fall reliably is hard… calling is easy.

The Series 4 displays take up so much more of the face of the watches that the new 40mm watch’s display is larger than the display on the old 42 mm models — the new small watch has a larger display than the old large watch.

This is actually a struggle for me, now. I know for a fact that I want one of these, but because of the size changes… I don’t know which one. I’ll have to wait patiently and see how they fit in the store starting this upcoming Friday the 21st. If I could manage to work my way into a 40mm, instead, I’d be extremely happy. The 44mm is a not insignificant amount more expensive than the 42mm of the same configuration was.

I’m a little bummed to see no Edition this year. The white ceramic Edition looked super clean. I pictured it with a white link band, too, and almost caved. I’m glad I didn’t though because resell values for Editions are trash. Still, I can admire from a distance.

The iPhones

It should be plainly clear by now that Apple has no interest in updating their budget phone line. Each of the new models all slot into the formerly-premium and really premium categories. The iPhone XR is the most interesting, though I wish they would have chosen to make it smaller, more like the iPhone 8. I’d be curious to see how many people end up with one compared to an iPhone 8 now, or one of the lesser iPhone XSes.

Oh, that name? What the hell were they thinking?

A Roman numeral is hard enough. But to put two alphabetic characters next to each other and expect people to treat one as a Roman numeral and the other as a letter is too much. They look like ex-arr and ex-ess so people are naturally going to see them and say them as ex-arr and ex-ess.

Yes. Yes. Yes. A year later, I still have people asking me how to pronounce it. They know I’ll know because I’m the “Apple guy,” but they shouldn’t have to. No one actually knows where the X = ten naming scheme originated (OS X) so how are they supposed to draw the conclusion that Apple opted to name the iPhone similarly?

Hell, I even have a hard time just saying the words “iPhone Ten Ess Max” out loud without having to repeat myself; more often than not I get tongue-tied or end up saying something like Ten Ex Max. I hope that marketing person was fired.

Naming aside, the internals of the XS and XS Max are pretty dang good. I love to see steady incremental improvements to hardware and Apple seems to know how to deliver on that front (at least from the perspective of mobile devices… let’s not discuss the MacBook line). This–and because I wanted the gray model this time–is why I went for it.

Also important: AirPower

I had almost entirely forgotten about it. AirPower was supposed to drop this year and while the year isn’t over, it seems Apple has just about nothing to say at this point:

I wrote about AirPower’s absence earlier this week. What I’ve heard, third-hand but from multiple little birdies, is that AirPower really is well and truly fucked.

Not surprising. The idea that one would have several heat-generating power exchanges in such a small space really blew my mind. My single iPhone gets hot when charging on its mat. If it gets bumped out of alignment, it gets fucken hot and doesn’t even charge. Who knows what the hell is going on on the inside but it can’t be good.

Now imagine that being a possible scenario on a single pad, one that’s also supposed to charge an Apple Watch using whatever proprietary method it charges, now.

The result?

Something about the multi-coil design getting too hot — way too hot. There are engineers who looked at AirPower’s design and said it could never work, thermally, and now those same engineers have that “told you so” smug look on their faces.

Oh well. It was a nice idea. Maybe someday? I’d still like Qi-capable AirPods, though. I’d go for that.

I glossed over a lot of Gruber’s discussion so go check out the the rest of his piece. It’s informative and definitely worth reading.