news from Cupertino

Well, you can’t buy last year’s high end phones anymore. That’s the quiet news out of Apple Park, as the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max (sounds like a gas station male enhancement supplement) will be joined on the shelf by only the XR and the 8 going forward. This suggests to me…but I’m getting ahead of myself.


1) Apple Watch: always-on display but still has “all day 18 hour battery life.” That reminds me, I haven’t charged my Fitbit Charge 3 in a week, need to top it up. Not a word about sleep tracking either. Pass. I still think the Apple Watch with LTE could be a very interesting device – especially paired with the AirPods and able to be the shutdown-night phone – but I don’t need two things to charge every night. The always-on display is reminiscent of how Jony Ive always used advances in processing power and size to make the phone thinner instead of longer-lived. Of which more momentarily.

2) New cheap iPad, 10.2” for $329. Interesting. This is clearly the entry-level bulk-order hand-them-out-to-the-class device, but even so…when have you ever been able to buy an Apple laptop for $329? iPad OS and Swift mean you’re getting close to the last piece of the Dynabook puzzle, in which you don’t have a computer until you can program that computer and write software FOR the computer ON the computer. If I had to get serious about Swift in a big way, $329 wouldn’t be the worst entry-level option. And it’s always nice to see Joz again.

3) Apple Arcade: $5 a month is probably right for this kind of thing but I’d have to see the game options first. I have come to realize that after a childhood spent pumping tokens into every machine at Big Al’s or Silver Star, and a college life spent pumping quarters into Cyberball or 1st and 10 or NBA Jam, I am simply not a gamer (bar the likes of Kentucky Route Zero). Even casual gaming is not my thing; my idea of a time-filler is hitting refresh on Slack and Twitter, God help me. Pass.

4) Apple TV+: this is basically the equivalent of launching Netflix or HBO GO with only the prestige series, with no long-tail backlog of hundreds of older movies and shows. I don’t think they could have brought this in for more than $5 and had the kind of uptake they want, but a year free with every new Apple screen you buy may help hook people. I don’t know…maybe? The only show that looks compelling is For All Mankind, but if they want to take me up on my pitch for a Mad Men-style look at the dawn of Silicon Valley called “Wagon Wheel” after the legendary watering hole in Mountain View near Fairchild…

5) iPhone 11: This is plainly the new default iPhone, as was the XR before it. They are really trying to position it as such, too. There is a clear line of demarcation between the “everybody” phone (8, XR, 11) and the “special” phones (X, XS and now Pro). And the highest-end phones now only last a year. The X, XS and XS Max all got turfed out after twelve months, and you can’t buy the Plus sizes any longer (although 6.1” without a bezel seems to split the difference in most cases). Still too big for me. Pass.

6) iPhone 11 Pro: Hold. Up. The big news here is not three cameras, or the full plunge into computation photography to catch up with Google (and arguably surpass them if this is all done on the phone without needing cloud processing), or the increased focus on dropability – the battery life is four hours longer than the XS. It’s been a while since Apple gave out absolute battery times and not relative to older models, so I’m gonna need to algebra this up, but four hours made me sit bolt upright on the sofa. That’s not nothing. Especially if you’re not gaming or taking a ton of pictures, but just doing the kind of text downloading that takes best advantage of the throttled processing. I guess this is why they think the always-on watch is doable now: they’ve perfected a processor that has running-away-from-the-cops speed but, like Milton Berle, can also pull out just enough to win. 

Pass, for now, but it puts me in mind of two things: the notional 5.4” iPhone 12 Pro, so-called, would not have an appreciably shorter (and possibly longer) battery life compared to the iPhone X work has saddled me with. Indeed, the A13’s battery-sipping ways might make it possible to make a smaller device with a smaller battery without compromising mean time between charges. And that in turn makes me think of the “new SE”, so-called, which would have that A13 in the body of an iPhone 8 (with, presumably, no superannuated 3DTouch taking up thickness where a battery could fit). That device, with its 4.7″LCD display taking less power than a 6.1” Liquid Retina LCD or a big AMOLED and a bigger battery than the iPhone 8 being gently consumed by the A13, might just be my next phone, especially with TouchID instead of FaceID. I don’t need Animoji that badly, and lest we forget, the 8 had all the chipset features of the X including NFC reader mode, waterproofing, the better front camera…the New-SE could very well be my next phone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.