Yet another bunch of Apple-related thoughts

iPhone 6 and 6 plus : what’s interesting about this is that iPhones with a larger screen were an open possibility since 2012, when autolayout was first introduced on iOS. It took another iteration in 2013 to get the tools right (not as much autolayout itself as how Xcode was handling it), and then yet another this year when size classes were unveiled at WWDC 14. So, Apple has been working on not only larger size iPhones but on enabling app devs to create coherent UIs on different display sizes for the past 3 years now. That’s the kind of long-term thinking and attention to details you expect from them.

Apple Pay : yet another extension of Apple’s ecosystem, and a pretty impressive one. As I said in my previous post, it’s really about Apple’s ecosystem. There are only so many cool products you can invent (really, what’s next ? TV ? OK, then what ? Cameras ? Cars ? Apple has covered most of the IT end-user sector already) and at some point the market will saturate with the ones you have and they lose their “wow” factor. That the iPhone 6 presentation was quickly gotten over with during the September 2014 keynote is a testimony of how the iPhone is now a relatively mundane product.

Apple Watch : it looks like a cool toy, I doubt I’d get one given that I’ve stopped wearing watches just about when I got my first iPhone (as have many smartphone owners I bet), but at the moment it’s quite interesting in the question it raises. First, it has a very prominent social feature (dedicated button to a list of friends) which, at the moment, is interesting only if many of your friends are also wearing Apple Watches. That may be a pretty tough bet. Second, what will be the upgrade cycle ? If, as rumored, the “edition” model’s price is in the $5k range, then it’s not possible that a new model will be released each year. You don’t upgrade a $5k watch every year, or every 2 year, you pass it on to your heirs. It’s not a computer, it’s a very personal object. So that’s where it gets tricky : I can understand that the CPU/memory specs are not very important, it can only be used for short interactions and glances, there’s little point in beefing up the hardware inside. So far so good. But it’s very likely that it could get thinner, so how and when will Apple introduce a new model ? Given the technical challenges it’s unlikely to be before a couple of years. However, the big issue is the battery. No matter what, the battery has to be serviceable, especially if it has to be charged daily. A device meant to be kept for several years with a very tiny battery with a capacity of 1 day or less won’t be an easy combination. John Gruber explains it all better here.

Beats acquisition : that was unexpected, but given the recent news about iTunes sales decreasing while subscription services profits are on the rise, it gets pretty obvious. An other interesting clue is in this interview of Jimmy Iovine when he talks about the importance of curation (17:20 mark). Tim Cook said how impressed he was by the quality of Beats’ playlists, and that’s typically the kind of service that Apple is supposed to provide : simplify the clutter, and guiding your choice (if not making it for you). Also, it turns out that music listening habits are changing. Contrary to what Steve Jobs said years ago when the iTunes Store was launched, people no longer care so much about actually owning their music (especially young ones who've grown up with music available on the Net). Having it all on subscription-based services is enough, what defines them are playlists, not CDs on a shelf. And as far I can see, if you’re under 30 or so, the album is dead. It’s become an middle-aged thing.

Swift : I’ve been using the language regularly almost ever since it was released. My initial enthusiasm was tempered by the low quality of the first releases (and the quality not consistently improving), but it’s nonetheless a very cool language. I’ve yet to find a feature I really dislike, and it took a little while but I’m grokking optionals and find them pretty well thought out. The real kick is in learning a new language and finding yourself increasingly proficient with it, flowing with it rather than stumbling around. I can’t really learn a language for its own sake, I have to do something actually useful with it, I won’t pick up fancy languages like Haskell or Scala on a whim. So I don’t get that feeling too often, and it’s nice to experience it again :).