iPhone 6 review: Is this the most desirable smartphone in the world?

iPhone 6I don’t think many people would disagree that Apple creates some of the most beautifully-made products in their range of mobile devices.

None currently is more desirable than the iPhone, a smartphone that is held in high esteem by the millions of people around the world who have used one or more of the evolving models since the first-generation device was launched in 2007.

The iPhone and Apple’s iOS operating system, together with smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, collectively accounted for over 96 percent of global smartphone shipments in August 2014, according to IDC, a market intelligence firm. Such a metric has been so for a significant period of time. Windows Phone, Blackberry and others are mere blips by comparison.

It’s an impressive market position for iOS and Android devices.

What’s probably more impressive to note is that smartphones that run iOS – ie, iPhones – are made only by one manufacturer: Apple. On the other hand, Android-powered smartphones – think of dominant player Samsung’s Galaxy range, for instance – are made by ten different companies.

Such light analysis of the smartphone market and where the iPhone sits in it runs through my mind when thinking of the latest generation of the iPhone launched in early September – the iPhone 6.

I was fortunate to be able to examine an iPhone 6 up close up a few weeks ago for this review thanks to mobile operator Three UK.

In the few days I had to get to know the iPhone 6 – it arrived on the day when the fiasco of Apple’s iOS 8.0.1 upgrade began – I focused mostly on the device itself rather than the apps you can run on it. As an ex-iPhone user (I was a firm iPhone fanboy with an iPhone 3G many years ago) and now a firm Android user with my current Galaxy S4, I was interested in what this latest generation of iPhone looked like and how it performed, and how it compared to my own experiences with my Galaxy S4.

In a nutshell, these are key specs that most people might ask about when considering an iPhone 6:

  • Overall size: 138.1mm high x 67mm wide x 6.9 mm thick (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 inches).
  • Display: 4.7 inches (diagonal) Retina HD display, 750 x 1334 pixels – bigger than any previous iPhone model.
  • Processor: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, plus M8 motion coprocessor.
  • Internal memory: 16Gb (the model I reviewed); other capacities: 64Gb, 128Gb.
  • External memory: None (and no capability for any, eg, SD cards), in common with all Apple mobile devices.
  • Cameras: 2 – primary (rear) 8 megapixels; FaceTime (front) 1.2 megapixels.
  • Video: 1080p HD video recording (30 fps or 60 fps), Slo-mo video (120 fps or 240 fps), time-lapse video.
  • Cellular and wireless connectivity: 3G, LTE 4G (depending on model and plan with mobile operator); 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wifi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC.
  • Battery: 14 hours talktime on 3G; 10 hours online (internet) use; up to 10 days (150 hours) standby time.
  • Sensors include: Touch ID for optional secure sign-in to the device and to your Apple account using your fingerprint (first introduced in 2013 with the iPhone 5S).
  • SIM card type: Nano-SIM. iPhone 6 is not compatible with micro-SIMs and other card types used in iPhone models earlier than the iPhone 5S.
  • Colours: Space Grey (the colour of my review unit), silver and gold.

Would my getting to know the iPhone 6 in a short space of time make me desire one?

Here’s a concise overview of my impressions of the iPhone 6 with photos, and with my conclusions at the end.

[Read more...]

The Apple iOS debacle and PR consequences

iOS 8.0.1 downloading

Whether you’re an iPhone user or not, you can’t have missed the headlines in recent days reporting on the fiasco resulting from Apple’s botched operating system update 8.0.1 for iPhones and iPads, released on September 24.

For the first time in some years, I have an iPhone courtesy of Arena Media, mobile operator Three UK‘s media agency, who sent me an iPhone 6 for review (that review is coming soon) which arrived on the 24th – the day of the 8.0.1 software update.

And so I did: allowed the iPhone to install the update. And, as you do, I tweeted that.

In pretty short order, I started getting tweets from Twitter friends about the problems with the update.

Sure enough, the iPhone 6 had lost its ability to make or receive phone calls and text messages, the problem at the heart of the matter, one that seemed to  affect only the two newest iPhones, the 6 and 6 Plus.

So for the past 36 hours or so, along with thousands of other iPhone 6 users, I’ve had a smartphone with no ability to use it as a phone. Luckily, in my case, it isn’t my primary phone and it otherwise functioned just fine including connectivity via wifi. And so I was able to kick its tyres, as it were, during the Simply SMiLE conference in London yesterday, using many of its features.

And what about fixing the botched update? How hard was Apple on the case?

I imagine this was being treated with the utmost importance by Apple. I visualized their engineers working round the clock to get a fix done in the shortest time possible.  And I guess the shortest time possible was the 36 hours or so from 8.0.1 to the 8.0.2 fix that I saw appear in my iPhone 6 early this morning UK time.

ios802update

iOS 8.0.2 Learn More

And once the installation reached a successful completion, the iPhone 6 had its cellular capability restored and the fixes mentioned in the ‘Learn More’ text applied.

iOS 8.0.2 up to date

And all’s well that ends well, right? Everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. No doubt by this time next week, all this will be just a bad memory, a little one at that (although #BendGate is still ‘an issue’).

And what of Apple the company, one that is the maker of probably the most desirable tech gadgets on the mass market today? Has something gone a bit wrong there where we’ve seen a succession of missteps in recent months: the current issues with the iOS fiasco, for example, and celebrity nude pics in the iCloud a month or so ago?

I expect Apple will continue to feature high up in lists of the world’s best brands. I imagine the rosy glow of success will continue to embrace the company once more news and information emerge about Apple Watch and its launch next year.

So events such as I’ve mentioned may be just a blip on the PR radar to Apple, ones relatively easy to consider and address purely as issues to manage.

Yet I think such events have tarnished Apple’s reputation somewhat. The share price has fallen. The gloss has dimmed a bit on a company which has often in the past said that they make technology that just works.

Not this time, Mr Cook!

Apple share price

I believe there is a cumulative effect over time where things like this add up to a negative sum when it comes to trust and reputation. And, eventually, that will impact you, your products and services and your market position. Not to mention shareholder value.

Not a good place to be, Apple.

The Apple Watch is very much in the fashion game

Apple Watch fashion

Until last week, “iWatch” was the name widely and wildly speculated about for months if not years for what Apple’s expected entry product into the wearables market would be called.

As Apple’s announcement on September 9 made clear, “iWatch” was just so much fancy by all and sundry as the firm broke with its use of the letter ‘i’ starting a brand name and announced the launch of Apple Watch.

Such name-guessing reminds me of what happened in the lead-up to the launch of the iPad in 2010.

Whether wearable tech interests you or not, I’m sure you can’t have missed seeing, reading or hearing about the Apple Watch this past week. It was the final (but, arguably, the most anticipated) of Apple’s three announcements on September 9 – the new iPhone 6, the Apple Pay contactless mobile payment system, and Apple Watch. Note that Apple Pay has no ‘i’ either.

While iPad created a new market – global sales of tablet computers including iPad grew from scratch in 2010 to over 195 million units in 2013 according to Gartner, just three years after iPad launched – the same isn’t really true with Apple Watch as there are quite a few smartwatches already on the market, with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear probably the name that you’re most familiar with.

While much of the reporting, commentary and opinion since September 9 has been on the technology of Apple Watch – especially its pros and cons versus what else is on the market – I’ve seen increasing views on the design and build quality of it.

And that’s what catches my attention most as when I first saw the Apple Watch on my computer screen during the live Apple event on September 9, my first reaction was seeing it as a desirable fashion brand more than simply the latest wearable tech.

I mean, just look at this picture of an 18-carat gold version (yes, there’s an 18-carat gold Apple Watch in two types of gold).

Apple Watch 18-carat Gold Edition

(Check the picture at the top of this page, too – it’s the watch the model is wearing, so see it in that context.)

It’s beautifully designed and looks the epitome of feminine elegance, class and minimalist style. It wouldn’t look out of place in the display cabinets of a Bond Street jeweller or among the luxury accessories you’d find in Harrods or Saks Fifth Avenue.

It would also look at home gracing the wrists of women on the cover of the likes of Vogue magazine.

If 18-carat gold isn’t your style, there are plenty of other choices: this masculine-looking stainless steel model with a Milanese Loop metal mesh bracelet, for example.

Apple Watch with Melanese Loop mesh strap

Smart-looking, to be sure. None of that clunky tech look that is the hallmark look of most other smartwatches (although there is a version like that, too).

Seeing the full array of Apple Watches reinforces the fashion aspect in my mind of what Apple is introducing when these devices go on sale in early 2015 at prices starting at $349 in the US (and perhaps $1,200 for the gold edition).

The Apple Watch portfolio embraces three collections (note that word) offering over 30 model variants in two different sizes together with different straps.

In Apple’s press release, there’s much talk of personalization, with CEO Tim Cook saying the Apple Watch is “the most personal product we’ve ever made.”

And Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design – and designer of the Apple Watch – offers this:

With Apple Watch, we’ve developed multiple technologies and an entirely new user interface specifically for a device that’s designed to be worn. It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface. We’ve created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalization.

Such talk of personalization reflects a prescient post last year by Om Malik after the news broke that Apple had hired Angela Ahrendts, CEO of luxury British fashion house Burberry, to run Apple’s global retail operations, embracing the bricks-and-mortar Apples Stores together with online.

Annual revenue from Apple’s worldwide retail operations exceeded $20 billion in 2013.

In his post, Malik talks about wearable technology like smartwatches as “intimate computing,” two words that are most apt when looking at Apple’s offering nearly a year on from Malik’s post and thinking about the words of Tim Cook and Jony Ive.

Malik states:

This new intimate computing era means that Apple has to stop thinking like a computer company and more like a fashion accessory maker whose stock in trade is not just great design but aspirational experience. And it has to do that at price points that are not quite luxury, which is going to be the challenge. The fact that Cook brought in YSL’s Paul Deneve tells me that the company is already thinking about the intimate computing future.

I reckon Apple is thinking like a fashion company. Who should be paying most attention – Samsung and other traditional technology competitors? Or Swiss watch-makers and luxury brands?

Probably all of the above.

The Apple Watch could kick-start the wearables market, one that just looks like it’s waiting for a proverbial boot (as in re-boot) with products that combine the latest in high technology in a package that appeals strongly to emotional concepts like desire and status, and is, well, reassuringly expensive.

See also:

  • A Watch Guy’s Thoughts On The Apple Watch After Seeing It In The Metal (Tons Of Live Photos): “I’m not even sure we can call it a watch. Okay, it goes on the wrist, and it happens to tell the time, but that’s about where the similarities between Apple’s just announced watch and the hand-assembled, often painstakingly finished mechanical watches we write about, and obsess over, end…”
  • Advertisers, Meet Apple Watch: “Imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re served a location-based ad or coupon for Sephora on your shiny new iPhone 6. You enter the store, pick up a product and bring it over to the checkout counter. If you use Apple Watch (or your phone) to pay, then the loop is neatly closed…”
  • How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies, TIME magazine’s take: “The Silicon Valley giant has redrawn the line that separates our technology and ourselves. That may not be a good thing…”

As it turns out, Apple isn’t above the law (and which is a bit behind the times)

applejudgementlinkfooter2

When Apple posted an apology on its UK website last month as part of the price it paid in losing a lawsuit brought by Samsung, it didn’t endear itself well to the High Court.

The lawsuit was filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Earlier this week, the high Court judge ordered Apple to take down the notice they did publish on October 25 within 24 hours and replace it with a new statement that complies with the legal order.

That first notice looked like this:

As Bloomberg reported on November 1, Apple’s post inserted four paragraphs including excerpts of the original court ruling regarding the tablets’ coolness that appear to favour Apple; and details of German lawsuits about similar issues that the court said weren’t true.

Bloomberg noted:

[...] “I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this,” Judge Robin Jacob said today. “That is a plain breach of the order.” [...] The notice created the "impression that the U.K. court is out of step with other courts," Henry Carr, Samsung’s lawyer, said in a filing. “It was clear the judges were not happy with what Apple had done," Gary Moss, a lawyer at EIP Partnership LLP who isn’t involved in the case but attended today’s hearing, said in a phone interview. “They thought Apple was playing fast and loose."

So Apple bit the bullet and published a new notice a few days ago, which looks like this:

applelegaljudgement2

The company also placed the same wording in ads in a number of UK national newspapers. So, all well and good and surely the end of the matter.

Not exactly.

Apple played a hidden tech card with a bit of JavaScript code, says Geekosystem this weekend, that tries to hide the notice on the website:

applejavascript

[...] While it may at first simply seem like something that’s included for aesthetic reasons, as the JavaScript’s function is to resize the iPad banner, it’s telling that the code is included on the U.K. homepage. Some of the other versions of the homepage resize in the same way, but it’s certainly not universal. Canada and Japan both resize, but not the regular homepage for the United States. By resizing the banner, the JavaScript makes it to where users will always need to scroll down in order to see Apple’s statement. Even though the other versions of the site have the same layout, minus the statement about Samsung, they don’t include the JavaScript bit in question.

I wonder if the High Court will regard this as Apple playing fast and loose even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do; if so, will there be consequences for Apple?

What this suggests to me, more than anything else, is that court-ordered apology-type notices, such as in this case, were designed in the age of print where the only way to be contrite publicly in obeying a court order was to publish your notice in a mass medium, eg, one or more national newspapers.

Such mass media were the only means available to do this.

Now there’s the internet and the world wide web – and note: they’ve been around for some decades – and far more sophisticated publishing methods and tools than in those days of yore.

Perhaps in the future of court orders such as this, the law needs to consider how a notice is published along with what the notice actually says.

And one other note: take a look at what Apple UK’s website, and the notice concerned, look like on a mobile device, in this case, my Samsung Galaxy SII:

applemobile1applemobile2

Even though the screenshots are 50 percent actual size, Apple’s UK website is impossible on a mobile device. Looks even worse on an iPhone 4S with its smaller screen (3.5 inches versus the SII’s 4.3 inches).

Surely not fast and loose with mobile as well…

[Update Nov 9:] CNET reports that Apple has quietly pulled the apology-hiding code from its UK website:

[...] The Apple U.K. Web site now displays two alternating fixed-sized images of the iPad Mini and the new iPad with Retina display – refreshing the page cycles between the two recently launched products – while the four boxes underneath are no longer fixed to the bottom of the display. Although the central images are still large and many displays require the user to scroll down, the forced-scrolling "resize" code is no longer loaded into the Web site’s code.

Though the code still exists on Apple’s servers (it can be found here), it is no longer called upon when the U.K. Web site loads up.

Looks like common sense prevailed. Or was it legal or other pressure? Apple’s not saying anything, says CNET.

Related post:

Just because Apple had to doesn’t mean they want to

Apple has posted a statement on its UK website that is the apology it was ordered to publish by a High Court judge as one result of losing the case in a lawsuit filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Take a look at the statement as shown in this screenshot (or see it on Apple’s website):

applelegaljudgemen540t

The wording of the judgement is quite interesting, especially the final paragraph referencing the upholding of Apple’s claims in other jurisdictions. But do you notice anything more interesting than the words?

How about the layout. Nice, isn’t it? Makes good use of white space for a clean uncluttered look that’s typical of Apple’s minimalism at work.

Maybe it’s extreme minimalism at work. There’s no branding of any type at all, no logo, no company description anywhere, no links to anything else on the website.

In short, there are no suggestions at first glance that you’re on an Apple website.

Such minimalism on webs pages isn’t new for Apple. Yet in content that’s also a statement of one type of another, the page concerned fully fits in with overall site look and feel. Take this example – the letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook posted on the US website last month that apologises for the maps debacle:

appletimcooklettermaps

With this, notice the branding, the logo, the links, all consistent with the rest of the website. Quite a difference in presentation.

With the Samsung apology notice, the only link I could find to it from anywhere on the Apple website is one in the footer on the Apple UK home page.

applejudgementlinkfooter

In the Samsung case, the legal judgement required Apply to publish the apology wording on their UK website. it didn’t say how they had to do it. They also have to take advertisements in some of the UK’s national newspapers and repeat the apology. I haven’t seen any such ad yet. I wonder how they’ll address that. Extreme minimalism, I expect.

(Via CNET UK)

Related post:

Apple, Samsung and pots and kettles

buysamsung

Apple’s lawyers had their day in the US last week in winning the Apple vs Samsung lawsuit over infringement of Apple’s software and design patents regarding the iPhone that saw Samsung ordered to pay Apple a billion dollars in damages.

Some say the outcome of this legal dispute has huge implications for Samsung and other Android-smartphone makers in the future. The Economist reckons the impact on Samsung’s bottom line should be modest “because a ban will affect older devices, not the firm’s snazzy new Galaxy phones.”

But the case still has big implications for the tech industry, which is facing a tsunami of patent-related lawsuits. It shows how patents covering the look and feel of devices are increasingly being “weaponised” by their holders. It highlights the propensity of juries to award huge damages in intellectual-property disputes. And it will give added ammunition to those who feel that the current system of granting and policing tech patents in America needs to be overhauled.

[...] The jury in San Jose [California] concluded that Samsung had violated several of Apple’s utility patents covering things such as bounce-back scrolling, which makes such things as on-screen icons and web pages rebound if swiped too far, and tap-to-zoom functionality, which makes it easy to zero in on, say, an image or a map. It also said the South Korean company had copied the overall look of the iPhone, including the rounded corners of icons, thus breaching several of Apple’s design patents. To add insult to injury, the jurors tossed out the South Korean firm’s claims that Apple had ripped off some of its own innovations.

It does seem that Apple itself is no stranger to copying other people’s ideas – a view apparently articulated by founder Steve Jobs:

Picasso had a saying: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

With the lawsuit, its concurrent publicity out into the mainstream, and views like those of Jobs, it’s surely no surprise if you politely yawn at any protagonist’s claim that the other stole its intellectual property.

It gives the tagline “Galaxy S3: the most amazing iPhone yet” you see in the spoof ad above,  circulating on Facebook this week, some credibility and elevates it above being simply amusing.

Yep, big and expensive pots and kettles.

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