The new iPad is 12.5 inches and can go for 10 hours. But that’s about the only virile thing about Apple these days, which is sliding into middle-age with some admittedly impressive products but none of the cool factor for which it became globally admired under Steve Jobs.
You’ll have to pay through the nose for that big new iPad, by the way, with the top spec model retailing at over $1,000, as Apple told us at a long presentation streamed live from San Francisco. From the demo videos, using a new iPad will be like holding a window pane. The thing is huge, and is sure to shatter within a week: glass panels become more vulnerable to corner knocks and spidering the bigger they get.
That said, the new iPad Pro, as it’s called, is a pure luxury item, even more so than your average Apple device, which makes it attractive to conspicuous consumers like me. Throw into the mix a new partnership between Apple Watch and Hermes for leather straps that will be priced in a reassuringly obscene manner and you start to see what’s happening to some of Apple’s more extravagant gadgets.
You see, the Watch is failing. Everyone hates it. People are returning them. No one I know who has one still wears it. So Apple is doubling down on luxury status, aiming to effectively retire the product into a high income bracket device. It’s the male designer handbag: a useless status symbol whose price is part of the feature set.
Again, I’m not personally complaining because idiotically highly priced luxury goods that serve no purpose but to advertise one’s wealth and status are exactly the sort of crap I spend my money on. Last year I went into the UK’s equivalent of Best Buy for a USB cable and came out with a $3,000 Samsung TV. But I am not Apple’s ideal customer and I’m guessing you more likely are.
Apple’s also trying to reboot its TV set-top box, but it’s still crap and no one will use it because to actually watch anything you have to pay ten dollars and that’s as much as a month of Netflix, so, you do the math. Is no one at Apple making these obvious points any more? Or are they solely making products for podgy 50-year-olds who want a vicarious exercise thrill from a TV remote you can swipe on.
Apple is spreading itself too thin, turning into an Amazon that tries out too many different product lines rather than focusing on the one thing it does well. The one thing it does well these days is of course mobile phones, and we have to give the Cupertino giant some credit here: the new iPhones look absolutely terrific.
The iPhone 6S Plus is ridiculously big, but the regular iPhone 6S will be, by some margin, the best phone on the market. That’s not just because it’s cool and slick and looks good, but because it doubles as probably the best camera you’ll ever lay your hands on.
A new 12MP lens on the iPhone 6S takes, if Apple’s demo can be believed, simply breathtakingly good photos, including the new “live photo” thing which takes a bit of video before and after the shot, so you can capture how awkward your daughter was before you finally got the snap you were after.
There was a slightly creepy demo of this new feature featuring a small girl being pressed hard by an old white dude and being made to giggle.
Gaming on the phone, at 60 frames per second, has the potential to be great, although the games Apple actually demoed were those awful boring hipster things that are fun for about 11 minutes and then you never touch them again because who really needs a 3D version of Frogger.
Apple is going to have to do something about storage on these phones, because the new photo stuff, plus the 4K video they demoed today, is going to fill up devices in minutes. But I have to admit to being impressed by the “True Tone” flash technology for better photos in low light.
And I also liked the sassy presentation of an Android switching app – released because “it’s the neighbourly thing to do” – that will make switching from Android to Apple easier.
Still, there’s a cultish feel to Apple, which becomes harder to justify as the company gets progressively less cool, and a terrifyingly uniform appearance to its fans, who don’t look like the sort of people I’d want to be sat next to at dinner without turning my hearing aid off first. Too much fakery and “epic awesomeness” for my liking.
And there’s something missing in Tim Cook’s presentation style, too. The whole event today felt sloppy and awkward and some of the products were simply daft. Apple is crapping slightly on Steve Jobs’s legacy by introducing a stylus, called the Apple Pencil and retailing at a whopping $99. Jobs famously scoffed in 2010 that if you see a stylus, someone screwed up.
I got my iPencil! Gimme somethin' to write on, man! Specifically, a product return form.
— Jim Treacher (@jtLOL) September 9, 2015
I know Steve was ill back then, but I do miss the hungry, hawkish, spindly on-stage look of Apple in 2010. Because Tim Cook, the most under-reported on CEO in America, is surpassing his predecessor in only one significant respect: his waistline. Cook’s always had a touch of elderly antiques dealer about him, but now he’s getting the figure to match. Tim Cook-Out, they’re calling him on the blogs.
And then there’s the attitude problem. Maybe it’s his new muffin-top, maybe the constant little slip-ups in live demos at Apple events these days, but Cook looks pissed. Peevish, at a bare minimum, like these presentations are an unwelcome interruption in what I’m sure must be a punishing brunch schedule.
He’s not alone in looking out of shape and out of sorts in the Apple executive line-up. Consider Eddie Cue’s gravity-defying paunch. How does he do it? Is he wearing some kind of belly bra? Cue’s fashion sense is striking, to say the least – part gay Texan nightclub owner, part flamboyant scout master on his day off.
There was one highlight for me today, and that, of course, was the inevitable feminist flare-up because Apple’s guest Adobe dared to photoshop someone’s face in the course of demonstrating their new Photoshop app for iPad. In other words, despite the excruciating hipster political correctness elsewhere in the show, Apple still found a way to annoy the loonies.
How, precisely, you may ask? By photoshopping a model to add something feminists are always mystified by, and slightly terrified of: a smile.
No women on stage yet at Apple event, besides the model that they just forced to smile -.-
— Jillian D'Onfro (@jillianiles) September 9, 2015
The Tim Cook roadmap for Apple is now clear, and it’s just as rubbish as Apple Maps was when they first released it and then had to fire Scott Forstall because people were driving into the sea and walking into trees and Maryland got relocated to the Persian Gulf. Well, something like that, I wasn’t really listening at the time but I know it was awful.
If you need any further, final proof that Apple is sliding toward its dotage, consider today’s musical finale. The bland band that played today, Cook’s favourite One Republic, didn’t know they’d be on stage until a few hours beforehand. Word has it Taylor Swift was booked, but pulled out at the last minute. After the cringefest that was U2 at a previous Apple event, can anyone blame her?