WWDC 2015- What to Expect

Apple's developer conference, WWDC, is coming up next week with the keynote address on June 8th. Everyone should note that this event is geared towards developers and so some of the announcements are not focussed on consumers. Instead this event normally sets out the Apple agenda for the coming year, especially in terms of software. 

One of the main parts of this will be the announcements on iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. Apple have committed themselves to a yearly upgrade schedule, and assuming this does not change, we will be introduced to a preview of the next versions. Expect to see information on items like CarPlay and HomeKit too, both aimed at the developer community. Showing off the new operating systems is key to working with the developer community. 

However we are also likely to see the launch of two other item- the first is the revised iTunes and Beats Music service. Ever since Apple purchased Beats in 2014 it has been expected that we would see a revised service from Apple, including a music streaming service. It may be that we see this announced at WWDC but this could also come later in the year, which was traditionally the event when iPods, iPads or iPhones are launched. I expect to see an announcement at WWDC if Apple can get agreements in place with the record labels. 

Apple TV will also be updated- the announcement earlier this year that the price of the current Apple TVs had dropped to a new low seemed to be a very strong hint of new hardware to come. A new Apple TV would also sit nicely next to a Beats music announcement, with a deal with other TV network operators likely. Apple announced a deal with HBO in March. 

Don't expect much change in terms of Macs; the laptops have been updated recently. I expect the iMacs to be revised later this year and so one possibility is news on revised Mac Pros, something which might be appreciated by some developers. 

Another intriguing piece of info would be the Watch OS- will Apple show off changes to Watch OS and announce new features? I expect to see Apple announce changes to attract high quality Watch apps and because this is the year of the Watch and Apple will be promoting these new features in the Christmas buying season. 

Overall is is likely to be a tech-heavy keynote, setting out the software and a few hardware bits for the rest of 2015. 

Apple Watch Faces- My Favourite So Far

I have been playing around with the faces on the Apple Watch and so far I have settled on four favourites:

Simple : Chronology : Colour : Utility (below)

Having tried out a few of these and having tweaked them using the customisable options, it does seem that there is so much more that Apple can do here. Most of the faces above are quite similar and there does seem to be limitations on the design due to the battery life. For example, there is no way to choose a different colour background. So if you attempt to recreate a watch face from another manufacturer (such as the example below from Seiko) you will be out of luck:

Presumably a blue background would mean more battery power as the whole face would need to be lit in colour and this would reduce the number of hours that the Apple Watch would last. But as the Watch develops and the batteries improve this will surely be an area which Apple can develop.

Also when it comes to the face, it will be interesting to see if third parties will be allowed to have information displayed, such as a news headline at the bottom of the screen or a to-do item from your favourite reminder app. There are even parts of the Apple information which cannot appear here- one example is heart rate. For now you can only add time, world clocks, date, activity, battery level, moon phases, stopwatch, alarm, weather and stocks. 

For now customising the Watch face seems limited and this is due to battery concerns. But it does mean that there will be a huge range of options which Apple can add in future updates or in the next generations of the Watch.

Third Party Apps for the Apple Watch

There are lots of third-party apps for the Apple Watch but many of them are simply an extension of the iPhone and have not thought out the Apple Watch design and screen. 

 Of the apps that I've tried so far, the best are the BBC News and Due.  Due is a reminders app which is neatly displayed on screen and fills a gap given that the iOS Reminders app is not available on the Watch. It does what it should without giving too much clutter and provides simple notifications when a reminder is due. It is clean and unobtrusive and a useful example of a Watch app. BBC News also provides a few pieces of information with the current headlines and a short summary. 

On the other side there are lots of quite useless apps, merely extensions of the iPhone version. Most of the Twitter apps don't make sense on the Watch- they seem to be there as a way to claim they have a Watch app, but with little functionality. 

Thoughts So Far on the Apple Watch

After my first 24 hours with the Watch, here is a list of likes and concerns so far:

Likes-

- I bought a sports watch with the black rubber strap and it is very light and comfortable to wear. I gave up wearing a watch about 8 years ago and have been surprised at how unintrusive the Apple Watch feels on my wrist

- it looks good- a little thicker than my dream Apple Watch (!) but very neat and sleek

- I have been pleasantly surprised on how fast I have learnt the OS. I was expecting it to be more complex, probably due to the reviews I had read. But having watched the Apple videos in advanced, I have used the Watch without having to search for answers online. This may not be everyone's experience; I think it depends on expectations

- the packaging is a work of art, and the UK/IRL charger plug is brilliantly thought out

- my favourite parts of the OS are: the customisable clock faces, messages and answering calls!

- after 24 hours the battery stands at 40%. This is better than I expected. My iPhone battery is also higher at the end of the day as I spent less time using it- a lot less! 

- the heart rate sensor is very interesting but I'm not sure I trust it just yet. A few readings were out of the general pattern for say an hour, and for no apparent reason. I am either doomed or the sensor can produce the odd glitch and we need to focus in the average. But overall I think it is a great health addition

- I like the activity features and how the Watch bugs me to be healthier. The prompt to stand up and move around may not be everyone's thing, but I like it

- best third party app so far- 1Password. A useful app where you can store a few crucial bits of info

- the best non-core Apple app has to be Remote- controlling my Apple TV from my wrist is very cool

Concerns-

- I thought that the charger would have a stronger magnetic attraction to the back of the Watch. It's not a major problem but I did find myself reattaching it a few times to be sure it was charging

- I'm not 100% convinced by the need for the Friends button- it might be somewhat handy, but a dedicated button for this? On the issue of buttons, I seem to be using the digital crown far less than iwas intended. Both buttons for me are a last resort

- not being able to reply to an email is disappointing. There may be very good reasons why it's not available as an option, but it seems like a gap in the features. I know this will disappoint some users

- I wish I could remove or hide some of the built-in apps to make the remaining apps on the app screen slightly larger. Right now those icons hover between usable and fiddly

- Siri has been almost good. But, for example, if there is a mistake in your message, you have to cancel and start the message again. It is not as effective as Siri on the iPhone

It will take a few days for me to have a fuller view on the Watch and how I will incorporate it into by daily routine, but so far it has been very useful. Plus it has kept me away from my iPhone and has saved time by allowing prompt responses to messages and quick reading of emails. 

Selling the Apple Watch in Ireland

A big question for Apple Ireland  In 2015 is- where will they decide to sell the Apple Watch (aside from the official Apple Online Store)? 

There appears to be three choices:

  • - Apple Authoised resellers, such as Compu b, Mactivate, iConnect etc
  • - Jewellery and fashion stores such as Brown Thomas
  • - "Computer" stores such as Harvey Normans, PC World / Currys

In terms of presentation, it seems likely that they will go for the first group, but limit it to those with the space and staff to deal with sales. With 38 versions of the Watch, it seems likely that the Watch Edition will be a special order product and stores will focus on the more main stream versions: the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch.

However given that Apple have done deals with fashion stores in the UK, such as with Selfridges, it is likely that they will hand pick some other stores for the ranges, including the Apple Watch Edition. Selfridges offer a try-on appointment service and this could be replicated in Ireland. But my guess is that they will choose these links carefully and not all resellers will have this offered to them. 

Today you can walk into many stores to buy an iPod, Apple laptop, and iPhones are sold in a variety of network carrier stores. But the Watch is a different category and the presentation of the Watch is (and should be) of paramount importance to Apple and its brand.

Our Guide to Choosing a New MacBook Laptop

On April 10th, Apple started to take orders for its new MacBook laptop. This muddied the waters slightly as they already had two ranges of laptops for sale. So how do you choose the right laptop for the task in hand- here is a run down:

MacBook

MacBook: this is the new range and comes with very set options: all have a 12" Retina Display and there is a choice of two chip/storage options and three colours.  The colours are gold, space grey and silver and the two chip/storage options are 1.1Ghz chip/256GB or 1.2Ghz chip/512GB (there is also a custom-built option of a 1.3Ghz dual-core Intel Core M chip, costing around 150 extra).

The MacBook is aimed at the traveller, student and people who want to prioritise weight and small size over power. The MacBook is Apple's thinnest laptop and is very light at around less than 1kg.

The MacBook is not the fastest laptop but most users would notice little difference between a MacBook and MacBook Air when using everyday apps.

The MacBook also comes with only one port- a new slim USB-C port which is smaller than a standard USB. You can buy Apple adapters to add external devices if you wish but this laptop is aimed at wireless users. This is a perfect laptop in the age of iCloud Drive, Dropbox, AirPrint, Bluetooth and WiFi.

I see this as the future- this will be the point to which Apple will head with the MacBook Air range. There are relatively few choices with the MacBooks (choose bigger or smaller storage/chip speed, and then pick a colour) and this matches the buying experience when you go to purchase an iPhone or iPad. This is a great mainstream laptop and we expect to see lots of these be sold in 2015.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air: this is still the default laptop for many people as it has most of the lightness of the MacBook, but has a wider range of ports with USB, Thunderbolt, audio and MagSafe 2 power. There is more flexibility on screen sizes with a choice of 11" or 13" displays and you can customise a MacBook Air to come with a 512GB SSD drive instead of the standard 128 or 256. 

The MacBook Air is the middle choice- they stand between the ultimate lightness and portability of the MacBook, but are smaller (and slower) than a MacBook Pro. For people who need to plug in their printer or iPad and aren't ready to choose the minimal ports of the MacBook, the MacBook Air is a safe choice.

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro: becoming more of a specialist choice, the MacBook Pro offers more processor and graphics power options, along with larger screens- 13" or 15". MacBook Pros come with 128, 256 or 512GB of storage and some allow an upgrade to a 1TB SSD drive. These are the fastest Apple laptops but the top 15" costs twice as much as the top of the line MacBook Air.

If you need a bigger screen, lots of power, extra storage and the extra ports, this is the beast for the professional video editor and power user.

Summary:

In 2015 we see most people going for a MacBook Air.  The lighter MacBook will appeal to many of the busy business travellers, a students, and home users who don't need to connect extra devices. The MacBook Air is cheaper and so will suit many homes and users on a budget, plus the extra few ports will mean that it will be a safer bet for those who say "what if I nee to connect my...". 

But I expect to see the MacBook Air phased out towards the end of 2016 or 2017, with the MacBook taking its place.

The MacBook Pro is the only option for those needing the bigger 15" screen and for people who work with power hungry apps (photographers, video editors, website and graphic designers, etc.). The new MacBook Pros are a lot lighter than a few years ago and come without a Superdrive (except for a legacy version which is still old). For most users, the MacBook Pro does not hit the mark, due to its extra weight and the higher price.

If Apple are to keep their traditional two laptop line-up, expect the MacBook to drop in price next year and to slowly take the place of the MacBook Air, with the MacBook Pro keeping is role as the all-powerful, professionals choice.

Simon Spence/2015

Becoming Steve Jobs

Looking forward to starting this book. I always found the Walter Isaccson biography to be one dimensional and fixated on what made Jobs seem different- unusual and abrasive. But to have built a team at Apple which stuck around for years, there must have been more to the man and he seemed to be more of a draw for talent. 

Given how Apple executives have contributed to this book, it seems like they are attempting to reset the clock and retell the story from the start. 

Simon Spence/2015

Apple Watch Guide-
Details of Ranges and Options

Here our guide to the Apple Watch:

Starting points:
- all Apple Watches do the same thing- there is no functional difference between all 38 watches in the ranges
- the differences come down to style- size, materials used, look, wrist bands


Choice steps:
The first choice is size- the Watch comes in 38mm or 42mm faces (measurement is the height of the front of the watch).
There are then three groups of Watches:
1: the Apple Watch Sport (least expensive models, made from aluminum) http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch-sport/
2: Apple Watch (the middle range, with the main body made from stainless steel): http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch/
3: Watch Edition (most expensive and made from precious material such as gold and diamonds): http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch-edition/
Once you decide on a range, you can then choose a band from that range- prices will vary depending on the band choice.
Here is a gallery on the Apple Store of the new ranges of Apple Watches:
You can begin to explore prices on the Store:
Here is a run-down of the ranges:

Apple Watch Sport
• Silver Aluminium Case with White, Blue, Green, or Pink Sport Band: $349 (38mm) / $399 (42mm)
• Space Grey Aluminium Case with Black Sport Band: $349 (38mm) / $399 (42mm)

Apple Watch
• Stainless Steel Case with White or Black Sport Band: $559 (38mm) / $599 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black Classic Buckle: $649 (38mm) / $699 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Milanese Loop: $649 (38mm) / $699 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black, Midnight Blue, Soft Pink, or Brown Modern Buckle: $749 (38mm only)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black, Bright Blue, Stone, or Light Brown Leather Loop: $699 (42mm only)
• Stainless Steel Case with Link Bracelet: $949 (38mm) / $999 (42mm)
• Space Black Case with Space Black Stainless Steel Link Bracelet: $1,049 (38mm) / $1,099 (42mm)

Apple Watch Edition
• 18-Karat Rose Gold Case with White Sport Band: $10,000 (38mm) / $12,000 (42mm)
• 18-Karat Yellow Gold Case with Black Sport Band: $10,000 (38mm) / $12,000 (42mm)
• 18-Karat Rose Gold Case with Rose Grey or Bright Red Modern Buckle: $17,000 (38mm only)
• 18-Karat Yellow Gold Case with Black or Midnight Blue Classic Buckle: $15,000 (42mm only)

Dates:
- Pre-Oders start on the 10th April
- The Watches start to ship on 24th April
Other useful guide:

Summary:
At the end of the day it comes down to four questions:
  • Which range?
  • Which size?
  • Which band?
  • Which Watch can you afford?!

Apple Watch to Re-Define Language of Gender?

On Monday 9th March Apple will reveal details of the Apple Watch. As I have set out on this site in the past, we know a certain portion of the information already, but there are many aspects which have been held back until now. 

One part which I have noted over the past few weeks is the issue of gender- the size of the Watch and the way Apple handles the promotion of the 38 and 42mm models. In the well-established watch market, small is for women and large is for men.  "Ladies" vs "Gents" is a tired old cliche which lasted through the 20th century and is still apparent in watch advertising today. 

Example from watchshop.com front page

Almost the first choice made when you enter a jewellers is to walk over to the men's or ladies' section of the store- with a gender choice coming before all other decisions. The established watch market falls into two gender-based categories: watches for men which focus on strength, rigour, power, sophistication.  This stands in opposition to the "ladies" watches which aim for femininity, style, glamour, elegance, lightness. 

Apple don't belong here. Apple don't do gender.  

In all of the years I have followed Apple and their products, they have never focussed on gender or marketed along sexist lines. The iPhone has never aimed to divide the products lines along male vs female: the choice of colour matches a lifestyle choice, not part of a gender equation. 

The closest we can find might be the iPods.  When Apple launched the range of colours for the iPod nano, it could be argued that the colours were aimed at different categories. But again Apple did not lead us down a path- there was never a stated aim of marketing a pink iPod at women only, and say blue for men.  The range of colours were left open to the consumer, a personal choice based on lifestyle, the iPod's purpose and without the constraints of gender-based limitations. 

But now we are in wearables, Apple's first product to specifically enter a style market. I fundamentally hope, and believe, that Apple does not intend to enter this market and adopt the old cliches set out by an ageing marketplace. We deserve better and if any company is going to lead to break up these types of segments, it is Apple. The Watch information pages on apple.com do not make any mention of male vs female or "ladies" and "gents" editions.

I believe that tomorrow Apple will launch two categories of Watch- a choice of large and slim. Why can't slim be athletic, light, lean, a perfect choice for any consumer irrespective of their gender (those who prefer the slimmer shape, not those who fit into a "slim watch segment"). Apple have always been to the forefront of the marriage equality debate, and I believe that old gender issues are not something that they will want to reinforce.  Now is the time to break with old conventions and Apple seem set to break the old categories seen on almost all watch manufacturer websites.

I look forward to seeing Apple's adverts and how they will define who will wear each of the devices. Apple are likely to reject the old assumptions of what a watch does and the functions contained in a wrist-based device, they will also change the language used to define this category. A freshness in design would be well matched by a fresh approach to language and how the Watch will be marketed.   

Simon Spence/2015

Apple Watch Wish List

Next Monday Apple will unveil more details about the Apple Watch. The event in Autumn 2014 revealed the Watch's existence, with a ship date of early 2015, but was short on some of the details. We know there will be a number of editions of the Watch and the price will start at $349, but we do not know the full price range and many of the features of the Watch are a mystery. 

Here is what I will be looking out for:

1/ battery life: this will be a key element as I would expect the Watch to last a full day. Anything less will be irritating as you will need to remove it in the middle. The idea of topping up your watch in your car or at work might put people off. We really hope Apple can stretch the battery in the Watch to a reasonable span, such as 12 hrs or more. 

2/ health: it would be wonderful to think that the Watch would track heart rate and blood sugars-  I know this is almost impossible. But as a diabetic I would like to think that the Watch could communicate with other gadgets for health and make health info a more regular part of life, not something you need to find out at your doctor's surgery. Blood pressure will be possible with the sensors, so I will be watching with interest. I will be disappointed if it simply also tracks steps and distance, the same as any other Nike-type monitor. 

3/ connection to iPhone and Mac: how are we going to load apps and sync info to the Watch (music etc). I still am not a fan of the way this is organised in iTunes- installing and arranging apps in the iTunes window is fiddly at best. I hope Apple have a great way to organise your content for the Watch. 

4/  tactile communication: the ability to send a "buzz" your Apple Watch friends is great. I love the idea of this way to communicate- more than text or email. It is a physical way to communicate and this will be catchy. It also works for routines- the Watch will vibrate if you have not stood up in a while- good for those of us looking after bad backs! Apple seem to have thought through the personal side of the Watch, and the ability to vibrate on your wrist is far more immediate and intimate than a buzzing iPhone. This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on as it could develop into a whole new, personal, way to communicate. 

5/ security: the Watch strikes me as the new thing too steal, and so I will be interested to see if Apple have thought this through. The iPhone is now a nightmare for a thief as the user can use Find My iPhone and can lock/wipe the device. We hope that the Watch, so publicly visible on a wrist, has these types of features and more.  

6/ Apple Pay: we expect Tim Cook to give an update on the new payment system, Apple Pay.  Hopefully he will announce that it is coming to Europe and we can't wait for it to arrive here. It will be a fantastic way to pay without having too pull out our cards at checkouts

7/ price: this thing won't be cheap! The starting price point of €349 is for the most basic version, but we expect the range to be big, and into the thousands. The more limited edition Watch, with gold, is likely to have an eye watering price to match. It is also likely that most people will be spending around $400-500 after they have selected a better strap or gone for a slightly better face.

8/ sizes: the Watch comes in a 38mm or 42mm size and I hope that Apple do not market this as a "ladies and gents" versions. I really hope the point of the sizes will be personal use and not gender based. If you look at a traditional jewellery store, the smaller watches are for women and the larger faces for men.  This irritates me and hope that Apple stick to breaking this type of gender-based stereotype. It would be nice to see the faces as a personal choice, the same with the straps. 

9/ don't expect this in your local shop: the Watch is likely to be an Apple-only purchase, so for Ireland it will be bought on the Apple online store. I do not believe that they will supply the Watch to third-party retailers, at least not at the beginning. Given the number of faces and straps available, this is a custom-build, so online shopping makes more sense. But there again not being able to hold or touch a Watch in Ireland before purchasing could be a  problem. Strong demand at the start will mean that Apple won't care about this, but expect to see Apple Watches in stores in a few years time as the product matures.

10/ this is the new iPod: the iPod range has not been updated in a few years and this is likely to continue. The Watch, along with Bluetooth headsets, is likely to be the new iPod. 

11/ what does the Digital Crown do?? The dial on the side of the Watch has not been discussed in detail. Look out for more news on this on Monday. Tim Cook did not refer to its purpose in the Autumn release.

12 surprise: Apple almost certainly held back on revealing significant functions of the Watch, so that this is revealed closer to the launch date. This means that competitors do not have time to try to copy its features. Expect a few show-stopper features to be revealed next week. 

We look forward to learning more on Monday. 

Simon Spence/2015

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