Apple’s Annual Product Update Extravaganza

The new 10.2″ screened entry-level iPad, with optional extra – keypad and pencil.

The annual orgy of public self-love that is Apple’s traditional iPhone and sometimes other products update event, about this time each year, was held this morning.

It started off in a more muted fashion that has been traditional in the past.  Instead of a carefully culled selection of statistics to show how Apple products are surging ahead in unbeatable world domination, we were spared another year’s oblique proof of the aphorism “lies, damn lies and statistics”.  Instead, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was skipping the usual updates for this year, and getting straight into the exciting new products.  We’d been curious to see how Apple were going to spin their crumbling iPhone sales, and perhaps indeed, ignoring them entirely is the best strategy.

And so, we were dropped straight into updates on the “Apple Arcade”, something we’ve never felt the need to write about before – a subscription game service, apparently.

That was followed by another software/service, Apple’s TV+, another streaming service featuring some expensive high-end original programming, because when it comes to such things, not even Netflix has the depth of purse and budget resilience that Apple has.  If you’d like to watch plenty of Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carrell, then stay tuned because sooner or later, TV+ will become a real thing.

Actually, although it has been teased for some time, we’re now being told the service will start on 1 November, and be available for $5/month.  On the face of it, that’s not a lot of money, but it is the death of 1000 cuts – add that to all the other video content services and cable/satellite type fees you’re paying, and the totality of your monthly fees is inching ever upwards.  It is unlikely you’ll say to yourself “Now that I have Apple TV+, I no longer need Netflix”.

New 10.2″ iPad

And then Cook started updating us on iPads – this was a mild surprise because it used to be the iPad release had its own special event a month or so after the iPhone release each year.  But this year it’s a twofer.

The iPad news is – as had been leaked beforehand – the 9.7″ screen version is being discontinued, and now the entry level screen will be 10.2″ in size.  A thinner bezel means the overall dimensions of the iPad are only little changed.

The thing that is happily not changed is the entry price.  $329.  Sure, it is just over twice what you’d pay for an Amazon Fire HD 10, but the new improved larger screen iPad at least no longer lags behind its better-value competitor in a side-by-side key feature comparison.

And the big new feature of the iPad?  Its case is now made out of – wait for it – yes, the suspense is mounting – its case is now made out of recycled aluminum.  We remember, not all that long ago, when products were touted as being made out of pure virgin aluminum.  But apparently that’s no longer as good as the old stuff that used to be airplanes and then made into beer cans and now is being made into iPad cases.

More than anything else, it points to Apple’s desperate attempts to come up with anything it can claim to be new or better about this latest iPad.

New Series 5 Watch

Next out of their goody bag was a new Series 5 Watch.  We’ve grown to really like our Series 4 Watch, and so followed this part of their presentation anxiously.  Would we feel compelled to update our nearly new Series 4 Watch with a new even better product?

The short answer seems to be no, and the occasional hints/wishful thinking about new Series 5 Watch features all proved to not be included.

The one notable difference is that the screen display always stays on with the new Series 5 watch.  This is a mild plus, but it is also a mild negative, too.  Do we really want other people able to glance over and see personal messages appearing on our watch screen?  Do we really want them to see how our personal fitness and activities are progressing today?  The watch screen can show a mix of ordinary time-keeping type information but a lot of more personal information too.

The new watch has a new app – a compass.  Mercifully, again not a reason to rush out and replace our Series 4 watch.  And international emergency calling, if you get the more expensive cellular version.

Plus – oh yes – it too is now available in 100% recycled aluminum.

The best news part of the Watch release is that the older Series 3 Watch is dropping in price to $199.  That’s a very attractive price, and while the Series 4/5 is appreciably better, if you wanted to dip a toe in the watch water and try one out, $199 is an easier entry point than $399, and makes it very price competitive with other non-Apple watches out there.  We expect this will see Apple sell a lot more Watches.

And so, now, to the main feature.  The latest set of iPhones – three models.

New iPhone 11 Models

The new iPhones will be called the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.  So much for the failed Roman numeral concept – most people pronounced the iPhone X with the “x” being said as the letter x, not the roman number for ten.

What is new and exciting about the iPhone 11?  Well, it comes in more colors than before, even purple and green.  But does anyone really care – just about everyone immediately surrounds their phone with a protective safety case that hides the phone’s color.  Is the phone’s color now the main reason for dropping $1000+ on a ridiculously overpriced iPhone?

Well, a bit of good news there.  The entry level under-featured iPhone has dropped in price, from $749 down to $699.  The other two models will start at $999 and $1,099.

Good news – there will still be an earlier generation XR phone, now dropped in price to $599 and up, and an even older iPhone 8, priced from $449.

Apparently the entry level phone will have an hour more battery life than the XR (previous entry level) phone did.  The two Pro phones will last 4 – 5 hours more than the comparable iPhone Xs phones.  That’s actually an appreciable boost.

But if you already have an iPhone X or XR, is there any real reason to now rush out and buy a new iPhone 11?  Not that we can see.

Summary

Apple is replacing its 9.7″ iPad with a 10.2″ unit that is priced the same.  The other models in the iPad series remain the same.

The Watch Series 4 is being replaced by an almost identical Watch Series 5.  The Watch Series 3 remains also available, and now at a new good-value price of $199.

The iPhone XR and XS models are being replaced by three new iPhone 11 models.  Better battery life, better cameras, most else very much the same as before.  The entry level iPhone 11 drops in price to $699.  At the same time, the older iPhone XR and 8 drop in price and remain available at $599 and $449 (and up depending on memory, etc).

There’s precious little in this to excite or to accelerate a person’s upgrade (or even first-purchase) plans.

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