I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this editorial for a while now. Between Mobile World Congress, Apple’s event and some big internal changes at TechnoBuffalo, I haven’t had a chance to put it down on paper.
Here goes: Apple is getting really, really, really, painfully, pry-my-eyes out and feed’em to the dog boring.
I remember looking forward to covering Apple events remotely, always interested in some new iPad, laptop, iPhone or software that Apple had up its sleeves. Now I’m just finding myself yawning. Night Shift? Probably the most exciting thing in iOS 9.3 and it’s not even a new idea. And the iPad Pro event was just an incredible dud. Apple basically took the technology it introduced late last year, stuffed it inside its iPad Air 2 and called it a day.
Worse, it reintroduced an iPhone we saw many years ago. The iPhone SE might pack some new internals, but it also has the same boring old design that was already used twice before, once with the iPhone 5 and again with the iPhone 5c. My goodness, the “apologetically plastic” iPhone 5c was more compelling than that. I get the strategy: Apple wants to cater to folks who want smaller displays and to emerging markets where consumers don’t want to pay as much for an iPhone, but geez, try something else this time around.
Think Different, right?
It wasn’t just the event, though. It’s the excitement that surrounds the launches now. Look, maybe I’ll be pumped for the iPhone 7 – I hope I am – but I have this silly little litmus test for when new products launch. I go to the website of each company, Samsung, Google, whatever, and then see how much restraint it takes to stop myself from buying something. Honestly, it doesn’t take much for me. I buy stuff, the wife yells, I return the stuff that sucks. With Apple’s latest batch of products, and for at least since last September, I haven’t had even a spark of an urge to buy anything new. And I tried going to the site and tempt myself.
I was kind of interested in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, I admit, because I’m always looking for something more compact that will let me work on-the-go. But once you factor in the price of the Apple Pencil and the keyboard, forget about it. I’d rather buy the $899 Samsung TabPro S that I’m currently reviewing, which is a far more robust Windows 10 tablet/laptop hybrid.
And speaking of Samsung, the competition has, conversely, been really fun to watch. The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, for example, are far more fun for me to use than my iPhone 6s Plus. I love that I can expand the storage, drop the Galaxy S7 Edge in water and that it has unique features, like its curved display. The iPhone 6s Plus is just… feeling really boring.
Look around the industry, though. Amazon is doing really amazing work with products like the Amazon Echo and, now, Amazon Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. I can control my lights, ask the weather, set alarms, play the radio, whatever, all with my voice. Siri works probably half the time I try to ask her something, and that’s on a good day. It’s an exciting space that Apple should, but hasn’t, tried to play in. Siri, after all, is locked to the iPhone and the Apple TV. It needs an exciting new home in a standalone gadget like the Echo.
Look elsewhere and you’ll see firms butting heads in the VR industry. Facebook, Samsung, HTC, Valve, Oculus and others are trying to find out the next user interface – one that transports us into a whole new world. Patents have suggested Apple is interested in the space, but so far it’s sitting quietly. And, unlike in the past where Apple moved in and dominated the industry (see the smartphone and tablets, for example), I can’t see Apple making a huge splash where others are already making huge strides. Again, I hope I’m wrong.
Maybe Apple is doing really exciting things internally. There’s the rumored Apple Car, for example. But, largely, and I may be missing something, I’m seeing a company that has been playing it way too safe with its products while others take the big chances and launching exciting new products. Right now, all I see is another iPhone, another MacBook, a sharper display, a stylus for an iPad.
When is that going to change?