Apple Hasn’t Innovated in Almost 20 Years

[You may be wondering why the Dark Android Blog, which, obviously, concentrates on Android, is discussing Apple products. It’s a fair question, and it simply comes down to keeping an eye on the alternatives. And Apple is one such alternative to what we talk about at the Dark Android Project.]

The date was September 9th, 2015…a day like no other. Well, that’s not exactly true. Days like this have come often in the past decade or so. It’s a day for another major “Apple Event” (which almost makes it sound like its some kind of spatial anomaly, maybe for some they are seen that way). New hardware, new software, new services, perhaps? What was in store for us today from that supposed “bastion of counterculture” out of Cupertino that required renting out a space that could hold some-odd 7000 people?

Let’s dig in, because a lot was released today.

The Apple Watch and WatchOS 2

Despite the humor of hearing “OS 2” getting spoken on a modern stage (think OS/2 Warp), there wasn’t anything drastically different to see here. There’s a “rose gold” version of the Apple Watch now, and some new watchbands, but that’s it.

Some of the demos that were done to show off what WatchOS 2 can do now were somewhat interesting, but they actually meant nothing for the average use by the consumer. They had a medical team come out and demonstrate how a doctor could be wearing an Apple Watch and could get sent patient data (heart rate, etc.) right on the watch, without having to take out his phone. In high stress areas like an ER, or in a meeting where pulling out smartphones could be seen as anathema, I could see this being useful. I was actually very impressed by this use case. And while I could see how a doctor having quick access to life or death information about his patients could certainly “affect” the average consumer, it’s not something that really means anything to the average consumer, it has no usability to them.

All of which raises an interesting point: these new product fields like the Apple Watch, Android Wear, and even Google Glass all have clearly recognizable use-cases when it comes to professional and enterprise environments, but none of it means much to the average consumer. Admittedly, I don’t think this is due to any shortsightedness on the part of Apple or Alphabet or whichever company, I think it’s the problem of science fiction.

No really. All of our “visions of the future” like Star Trek, etc., generally shows people engaging in some kind of work or mission. So all of that future tech that you see them using and wearing makes a lot of sense and seems really “cool” and useful. But most people (sadly) don’t live lives that require that kind of technology, so when Apple and Alphabet release said technology…everyone just kind of looks around and stares at each other, clueless as to what to do, until the feeling sinks in that they wasted hundreds–if not thousands–of dollars on something that doesn’t mean much to their everyday activities and lives. I even argued this in my review of the summer blockbuster, Jurassic World. Until I had seen that film, I had no idea what anyone could do with a smartwatch that your smartphone couldn’t do better, just perhaps not as readily. Jurassic World showed a military team wearing a smartwatch that displayed a video feed from various sources around the park, so they were able to keep an eye on things, while at the same time easily being able to see what’s going on right in front of them without distraction (which a HUD would cause) if need be.

I could see the use of the Apple Watch doing the same in the medical field as Apple showed off at this event.

But then that raises a whole other issue: Why pay hundreds of dollars for an Apple Watch when you could do the same thing on a $99 smartwatch? In the end, it all still makes the Apple Watch a very suspect product.

The iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil

Next came what many were already expecting (and long ago, accurately predicting): the iPad Pro. Oh there is so much to say about this. First off, as I’ve predicted for years on my science and tech podcast–Sovryn Tech–I think the iPad Pro is the semi-silent admission that Apple is hoping to replace their desktop and laptop computers with iPads. The instant they released the 128GB iPad years ago, I knew it was coming. The openness that OSX has allowed for historically due to its BSD roots has been a thorn in the side of Apple for along time now, I imagine, and getting everyone onboard with their proprietary operating systems like iOS is the goal for them, I’m sure. The iPad Pro makes this a very plausible reality…but only because it’s COMPLETELY copying an already very successful line of laptop/desktop replacement computers out there: Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

From the Apple Pencil (notice Apple wouldn’t call it a “pen”), to the Smart Cover which comes with a very Surface-like keyboard…actually about that…

apple2012Notice the date on the above picture: 2012!!!!!!

What more need be said about that? This highlights (and it will come up again and again in this article) the problem with tech journalism and Apple fanboys…in fact I’m really curious what mental gymnastics they’re going to perform to come out on top of this. Might one of them actually say that Microsoft thought of a good idea? Actually, one of the interesting things to me about this whole Apple Event was that the Microsoft (MICROSOFT!) Office team was the first group to come out and demo what the iPad Pro can do with the Surface Pen…err…I mean the Apple Pencil. Sorry. Maybe it was a slight concession on Apple’s part to Microsoft saying, “You guys were right”, but I doubt it.

Now, about that Surface Pen…err…Apple Pencil. It certainly is a well done product, and is probably the best mainstream consumer product of its kind. But I wonder what Steve Jobs would have to say about this? Hmm…

COencvXWEAAt5o2.jpg largeI see. Oh my. That’s some strong language. So who is in the wrong here? Steve Jobs, or everyone else? But Steve Jobs was the master innovator! How…why…he…could…I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S REAL?!?!

The Apple Pencil is a fine product, there’s nothing really to rip on about it, but it is a change of direction for where I think Steve Jobs wanted to go with Apple devices. So is the keyboarded Smart Cover. Steve Jobs was clearly obsessed with things being natural, and interaction being natural, and both the keyboard and the “pencil” stand in contrast to that. Was his endgame similar to Alphabet’s in wanting a “post-UI” world? Maybe. But the fact we do know is that the iPad Pro would never have been released by an Apple run by Steve Jobs.

With the easy stuff out of the way, let’s talk about some other points about the iPad Pro. It has a 12.9″ screen which is clearly meant for productivity and the multi-tasking in particular that iOS 9 allows for. In fact, the iPad Pro screen is literally twice the size in width to the iPad Air’s screen height, making it pretty blatant they designed the screen for you to do two things at once as most people agree with iPad Air’s screen is a sweetspot as far as portable screens go.

And how about that portability? It’s only slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad Air. Nice job, Apple. Also, it has a new (and it is the only device to have it) A9X processor. This allows for–according to Apple–greater processing power than 90% of the PC’s on the market today. Personally, until I hear how they came up with that metric, I think that’s bullshit. There’s just no way. Run OSX on that thing then, already! Hmm…I wonder why they don’t? We’ll talk about that more later.

One of the things that really pissed me off, though, is the response to the quad speakers on the iPad Pro. That’s right, it has four speakers. Reviews are coming in that this is a wonderful idea, and I actually agree. To this day, I consider quadrophonic sound and mastering to be the best the world has ever produced (even better than anything Dolby is doing these days). But here’s the gaff: When an Android tablet announced it recently, it was called “a joke”! No one is saying it’s “a joke” on the iPad Pro. I actually previewed that very Android tablet–the Acer Predator 8–and said that it’s Predator Quadio sound was a winner and a great idea. And it would appear the Acer Predator 6 (there new smartphone) will have four speakers, as well! Again, this will prove in the end the hypocrisy of Apple fans, as even when something is a good idea, it’s considered a shit idea until Apple claims they invented it.

It has 10 battery life. Yippeee.

It has Touch ID. Well, that’s a privacy and security nightmare, in my opinion (again, at Dark Android, I recommend never buying devices with fingerprint readers).

I do think it’s interesting that it only comes in 32GB models and 128GB (with the option of LTE) models. I think this proves the point I’ve said many times that 32GB is the sweetspot for storage on mobile devices that interact with the Cloud regularly. And 128GB is the low-end for device that revolves around productivity, which the iPad Pro does.

My last point to make on the iPad Pro has to do with the advertisements for it, and it’s a little speculative. The advertisements that were shown during the event kept showing the planet Jupiter or of a star field (“My God, it’s full of stars!”) on the iPad Pro’s screen, and judging by the shape of the device, I can’t help but think they’re shooting for a 2001: A Space Odyssey “Monolith”–or TMA-1–feel, that supposedly taught the apes how to make fire and tools, etc. Considering that Apple is in cahoots with IBM, as well as the massive hiring of artificial intelligence experts by Apple as late…yeah, I think there might be something to all this. But I’m just speculating.

In the end, the iPad Pro is a great piece of hardware (if you like Apple products), even though it is a COMPLETE copy of the Microsoft Surface. And that highlights why some people really get annoyed by these product releases (including myself): it’s the attitude that Apple users have that if Apple doesn’t make it, it sucks. But once Apple makes it, suddenly it’s okay. This is a problem that goes beyond the Apple fanboys, and beyond Apple itself, but it’s no less frustrating every time the hypocrisy rears its head.

Apple TV

Sometimes Apple is to blame on why people are sour on their products, though. The Apple TV is one such example. Yes, a new one was released today, but there was absolutely no admission that the previous Apple TV SUCKKKKEEDD!!!! I mean it SUCCKKKEEEDDDD!!!! Not only that, but everything they’ve put into Apple TV to improve it has largely long already been done by various competitors (Amazon, Android TV, Roku, etc.)

So the Apple TV now has a Siri-enabled remote control (ala Amazon’s Fire TV), that includes a touchpad on the top that allows for swipes, and also has an accelerometer, as I understand it, that allows to function much like a Nintendo Wii controller for playing games, as well. That’s right, the Apple TV can also play games now, and it supposedly has “console-quality power”. And everybody is in awe about how awesome this is going to be! Hey…wait…didn’t people think that the Nintendo Wii’s controls were “stupid” and “ridiculous” and “no one would play games like that”? What happened to that opinion? Oh right, no matter how well-designed the product was 10 years ago, it’s not “great” until Apple makes it! How silly of me. Admittedly, though, it’s far worse. At least the Wii came with a “Classic Controller” so that you could play more traditional games (as in, the games I want to play), but for Apple this seems to not even be a possibility. Even if they did allow for the screens of iOS devices to be used as a customizable for controllers for more intense games (and even if iOS devices have “3D Touch” and whatever else), there’s no way this is going to be a good solution. Touch controls and touch keyboards suck, and they always will. That’s the bottom line.

Oh, oh, and Guitar Hero is coming back! Wait…I thought the gaming community and the gaming industry said that franchise was dead! Well…hey…as long as Apple is making it! Idiots.

And don’t even get me started on talking about that Crossy Road demo. I don’t believe in intellectual property or the court system, but if anyone deserved taking someone to court, the creators of 80’s classic Frogger should take those Crossy Road guys to the cleaners.

And Apple TV is catching up with every other TV streaming box (years later) by allowing for the development of various apps, not just games. This will certainly be intriguing (Twitter’s Periscope is one such app example being released), including something to do with comic books on your TV screen, but again, Apple is just behind the times as far as this goes.

One last point with the Apple TV, and it’s just another sign that this isn’t Steve Jobs’ vision of Apple were dealing with anymore. Two of the demos shown for the Apple TV were for fashion shopping and sports. I remember when the whole schtick behind Apple was that it was the company of the counter-culture. And I loved it for that. But now that the Apple TV is essentially the new QVC, and the new Sunday Ticket? Yeah…REAL counter-cultural of you Apple. Looks to me like you just appealed to every conventional person on the planet.

iPhone6 and iPhone6 Plus

Alright, I know this blog post has been a little longer than you’re used to from me, but it was a three hour event! So stick with me, we’re almost done.

For me, there’s not a whole to see here. There’s a “Rose Gold” option to buy the phones in now. The 6s’ have the A9 chip, yada yada. Whatever. 3D Touch? That’s a gimmick just like Force Touch is. Able to capture 4K video? Does Apple even offer 4K devices to display those on outside of the 5K iMac? Using the screen as a flash for a selfie when using the forward facing camera? Okay, that was pretty clever.

But there’s really not anything mind-blowing to talk about here. In fact, the only thing to really talk about with the iPhone 6 was the iPhone 6 Plus, as in, you could now buy an Apple phablet.

There are some concerns to talk about, though.

First is the new M9 processor. This processor (not to be confused with the main A9 processor in the iPhone 6s). Like the voice co-processor that has been appearing in Android phones (again, for well over a year now, Apple is copying), this allows your iPhone 6s to always be listening. Thus, largely no matter what state the phone is in, you can always interact with Siri. And thus, the NSA, GCHQ, FBI, CIA, etc. can always listen to you too. It’s a sad fact, but we are quickly running out of devices that don’t have this “always listening” ability, and if you are concerned about your privacy, that ability is a serious no-no. And here it is, “proudly” for the first time in an iPhone.

Secondly, in the same vein is the “Live Photos” feature that comes with the iPhone 6s (and iPhone 6s Plus, of course). This is a feature that, when you take a picture, the phone’s camera automatically takes a series of pictures for you, which end up looking like an animated GIF. Now, beyond the irony that Apple is (not surprisingly) giving any credit to the over 20 year old technology that are GIF’s while pretending that motion photos are some kind of new and wonderful thing that only Apple can bring you…there is a huge technical and privacy concern here. How much storage do these Live Photos take up? When exactly is the camera recording/photographing? Is there any way to know? You can see on both counts the potential problems with this.

But that leads to one of my final points, which is I want to address a prediction that I made about two years ago on my show, Sovryn Tech. I had predicted that Apple would never accept Bitcoin because they have ApplePay which interacts very nicely with the “legacy banking system”. Retorts were sent to me claiming that not everyone can afford an iPhone, and everyone can afford a Bitcoin-capable device, so there’s no way ApplePay could overtake Bitcoin just on infrastructure alone.

My response to those claims was simple: they’ll just make a cheaper iPhone. And while they didn’t release an “iPhone 6c” like I had predicted, they did make the iPhone 5s (which has ApplePay and Touch ID built-in) available essentially for free from mobile carriers. And Apple also (humorously) made the point that many people were leaving Android to come to iOS. Those numbers came from somewhere. So my point being is that my prediction still stands: Apple did make a cheaper iPhone for everyone to get onboard with ApplePay, they just didn’t make a new model to do it. In fact, ApplePay has an even easier way to “take over” the financial system: the AppleTV. Remember how I mentioned that it had shopping apps built in and it had effectively turned into QVC? Bingo. That all can go through ApplePay. So it’s still true, Apple has no need for Bitcoin, and they likely never will.

Conclusion

Alright, let’s really wrap it up. The most shocking thing about this Apple event was…they admitted that Android even existed. No, really, that is shocking, but that’s besides the point. What I think this event highlighted was that Apple is now firmly in the role of the copycat. Certainly, they perfect what they copy, but the days of their most innovative and revolutionary product–the classic iPod–is long behind them. It’s also a company that has no regard for Steve Jobs’ vision, and may as well not be attached to his name any longer. At all.

I remember years ago (when I was a bit of an Apply fanboy) that people used to try and guess what Apple could possibly invent next. It was exciting, and in many ways a lot of us felt that anything was possible with this company, and that a glimpse at them was a glimpse into the future.

Now it all seems quite the opposite. What is Apple going to release next? Go look at what Acer or Microsoft is doing. Is Apple showing us the future of technology? No, they’re just refining the past.

And they do that refinement to perfection, I agree. They’re products are second-to-none, even if they are no longer original. When you buy something from Apple, generally, you’re getting an awesome product, and I don’t mean to take anything away from that fact. And I recognize that when it comes to privacy and security concerns, I’m kind of a rare monkey in that regard. So maybe Apple is for you, and it just isn’t for me.

But right now, if you ask me, what is the best Apple product on the market or that is going to be on the market? Fortunately is has already been released: it’s the latest 128GB iPod Touch. All of the software goodness, none of the hardware nonsense.

Honestly, I probably I wouldn’t be so hard on Apple–and I certainly wouldn’t have as high of expectations–if it wasn’t for many of the Apple faithful. If it wasn’t for the people ripping on the Nintendo Wii and then buying an Apple TV. If it wasn’t for the people calling “copycat” to the Microsoft Surface and then buying an iPad Pro. I just want to use what works for me and meets my own needs, I don’t care about the brand.

Maybe we’d all be better off if we thought that way.

Carpe lucem!

donate_svt2