On September 12th, Apple held their first keynote at the newly built Apple Park. While a good amount of hype surrounded this new facility, most of it was attached to the announcement of new iPhones. It has been three weeks since the event and that has been ample time to think on what was discussed. As a result, I’ve put together what I believe to be the five most important takeaways from this year’s presentation.
1. Apple isn’t afraid to confront economics and build a premium iPhone
As the rumours predicted as far back as January of this year, Apple has announced the iPhone X (pronounced iPhone Ten). Billed as the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone itself, the iPhone X does away with a traditional home button and introduces an edge-to-edge display that consumers may have noticed on other smartphones. Furthermore, Apple has ushered in a secure facial recognition system that promises to work in almost all conditions and is 20 times less likely to be spoofed than a fingerprint sensor. This is all nice, but you probably won’t get an iPhone X anytime soon.
They often wait for the perfect opportunity. But this time they didn’t.
You see, the iPhone X is a new endeavour for Apple. Yes, they’ve been able to manufacture and sell tens of millions of new iPhones year after year. But for the first time they are facing supply constraints at a scale that is unprecedented by most, if not all, consumer electronics companies. A situation like this would normally deter Apple from producing this product. Apple isn’t the first to things. They find a way to do it right and wait for the perfect opportunity. But this time they didn’t.
Apple is confronting economics to produce the most cutting-edge phone they can design and introducing it at their highest price to date. And to call this pricing strategy a ploy by Apple to squeeze more from their consumers would be naive and short-sighted. I won’t get into all the details in this article, but a combination of higher priced parts, limited supply, and mitigating demand are the core reasons why the iPhone X starts at $999 USD. If we learn anything from this, it’s that Apple is prepared to section more of it’s user base to bring new innovations to market.
2. Augmented Reality will see exponential growth
With the advent of ARKit in iOS 11, we will see an exponential growth in the application of augmented reality (AR) software. Just as the App Store democratized software development for many people or HealthKit lowered the bar for large-scale medical research, ARKit will allow developers to create and test new applications for AR.
Whether this will last is another argument entirely.
Let’s be clear, this is not virtual reality (VR) where you have to wear a headset to use it. AR allows you to “look-through” your phone while useful information populates the screen. Apple has made a clear decision that this is the future of a mixed-reality experience. And as a result, we will see a huge increase in the availability and consumer use of AR. Whether this will last is another argument entirely. But reading the tea leaves points to this not only succeeding, but predicting new types of hardware from the folks at Cupertino. Apple Glasses anyone?
3. 4K and HDR content will become more readily available
4K televisions have been on the market for years now and while the rate of adoption has been increasing, there is a strong argument to be made that there isn’t nearly enough content. However, with Apple announcing a new 4K compatible Apple TV, boldly titled Apple TV 4K, we will witness an inflection point in the creation and consumption of 4K content.
Apple won’t be charging a premium over HD for any 4K content.
Apple has gone out and backed 4K and HDR not only with the advent of new hardware, but also upgrading almost all your HD iTunes purchases to 4K (Disney not included, but more on this at another time). Further to this, Apple won’t be charging a premium over HD for any 4K content. All these decisions will move the industry forward and balloon these media standards in ways that have yet to be done in the entertainment industry.
4. Apple Watch Series 3 widens the gap in the wearable market
Apple sells a lot of watches. So many watches that they don’t even compare themselves to wearables made by Fitbit or Samsung, they compare themselves to watch manufacturers. By revenue, Apple is second only to Rolex in worldwide sales. Keep in mind, this statistic was from last year and if manufacturing holds up, I predict Apple will be the market leader by revenue for watches by the end of 2017.
This is in large part due to the newly announced Apple Watch Series 3 that sports an LTE-enabled version which aims to liberate people from taking their iPhones everywhere. Along with several other new features, such as a 70% faster processor and improved health tracking, this iteration of the Apple Watch further distances itself from competitors by maintaining a near identical footprint from it’s predecessor. The LTE-enabled Apple Watch is the smallest smartwatch with cellular functionality on the market and one, largely due to software, that will be market leader for a long time to come.
5. Apple Park is a metaphor for how the company sees itself
It’s no secret: the new Apple campus is gorgeous. Journalists marvelled at the attention to detail in the Steve Jobs Theatre where the keynote was being held. But what makes Apple’s largest product to date more amazing, is that it really speaks about Apple as a whole.
The iPhone company has become so entrenched in our environment that it is too big to fail.
In a sea of trees lies a massive, futuristic structure that doesn’t seem to displace nature, but exist amongst it. On it’s roof sits one of the largest solar arrays on a commercial building. And within this circular campus sits a large park, as if to remind us that we cannot escape nature itself. Apple Park is a metaphor. The iPhone company has become so entrenched in our environment that it is too big to fail.
With over $250 billion in cash on hand and hundred of millions of people locked into their various platforms, Apple is Coca-Cola in that they will always be here. No matter what the market conditions are quarter to quarter, the company that put Designed in California on the map will weather the test of time and be here long after we’re gone. At least, that’s my takeaway.
Apple Events have become quite the spectacle over the last decade. What began as a niche experience for like-minded individuals has grown to encapsulate the news cycle for days. With this growth comes a lot of skepticism, hyperbole, and polarization. But if you take the time to look for the patterns, you get to peak at the future of consumer technology as a whole, not just in Apple’s world.