After another 12 months of tantalising build-up, Apple this week unleashed its latest batch of consumer products: the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and, at long last, Apple Watch.
In usual fashion, the launch attracted heavy attention from every corner of the globe and in usual fashion, many were hoping that Apple would fall flat on its face. ITProPortal watched everything unfold in California. Here are our initial reactions.
Apple is back... sort of. It certainly felt that way during the conference. There was a real sense of anticipation that I haven't witnessed at an Apple event for quite some time – partly drummed up by the hype surrounding the Apple Watch – and, for the first time during Tim Cook's tenure as CEO, this was somewhat fulfilled.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus basically amount to everything we expected: bigger, more expensive, and packing slightly better specs than the 5S. It's still shocking that the iPhone 6 still doesn't feature a Full HD screen, and that both models only carry 1GB of RAM, wishy-washy primary and secondary cameras and a sub-2,500mAh battery, but Apple knows its customers will pay an arm and a leg for them anyway. After all, the iPhone as much a fashion item as a mobile.
The Apple Watch was the real star of the show, not purely because of how good it is but, rather, the statement it makes. Rumours about the wearable have made the rounds for well over a year and during that time a lot of other companies have entered the smartwatch arena. It's actually likely that firms such as Samsung and Sony only released their own, desperately poor, smartwatches so hastily in order to beat Apple to market.
The Apple Watch boasts a certain elegance and simplicity that place it way above its rivals in this sphere. The demonstration of the Digital Crown alone truly put Samsung's and Sony's efforts to shame. It was brutally embarrassing.
This time last year, Apple released the iPhone 5S and 5C, two phones that went relatively unchallenged as the king and queen of the smartphone market. This year, things could hardly be more different. With high-end contenders like the LG G3, HTC One M8 and Sony's latest offering, the Xperia Z3, the iPhone 6 is definitely swimming with sharks.
With the iPhone 6, Apple needed to leapfrog a generation of phones, and it just hasn't done that. The company that was always ahead has started playing a game of catch-up, bowing to market pressure on design features that have long been a staple of its product, like the button on the edge of the phone. In about six months we'll be seeing the Sony Xperia Z4, and Apple won't even be half way through designing the next iPhone.
Many features like waterproofing and dustproofing, as well as wireless charging, are inexplicably absent, whereas Apple's competition has been using them for several generations of phones already. While the iPhone 6 does offer a host of great features, like TouchID and the new mobile payments wallet, and looks like it offers a great all-round experience, this is more of the same from Apple, when it needed something different.
Frankly a lukewarm showing from the company that once ruled the industry.
Everyone was expecting and hoping for something big from Apple at the launch of the iPhone 6 yesterday, but I would say that the company only half-delivered on this expectation.
In terms of the phones themselves, which were supposed to be the main attractions, I was slightly disappointed with what Apple had come up with. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, but I'll say I definitely wasn't excited by the new hardware. Don't get me wrong, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are certainly upgrades on the 5S. They are both bigger, the displays are better and the processors more powerful, but then they get let down by only featuring 1GB of RAM and an 8-megapixel rear camera, both of which you'd expect to find on a mid-range handset.
What did get my heart pounding was the Apple Watch. I know lots of people are still sceptical about wearables in general, but I think Apple has absolutely nailed it. Firstly, the Apple Watch looks great. It's sleek and stylish rather than awkward and bulky and can be customised through a range of different straps that actually make it look like a normal watch.
Add to that the Digital Crown dial that allows you to scroll through menus without having to touch and obstruct the screen, the nifty Digital Touch communication feature, the sleek user interface, the abundance of apps at your disposal and all the sport and fitness capabilities and I believe that Apple has finally delivered another revolutionary product.
The past two weeks have been an intense build-up to Apple's major launch event, with near-daily leaks, rumours, and possibilities. Apple does hype incredibly well. I was almost blinded to the fact that it was just a phone.
Watching the conference, it seems that Apple thinks that the new iPhone 6 range is akin to the second coming, when in reality all we got was... a new iPhone. The stats are fine - obviously faster CPU, GPU, etc. - but nothing spectacular. The biggest "get" for Apple users was probably the bigger battery, but the previous iPhone's battery life was so abysmal it's hardly surprising the company upgraded it.
However, the Apple Watch, if it works how Apple says it does, is the first smartwatch that I haven't laughed at. It's beautifully designed, and it appears that Apple hasn't done what most other tech companies have done, where they just try to shrink their phone into a watch.
Full disclosure: I'm not an Apple guy, but through the constant "Our products are the best products" Tim Cook spiel, the conference revealed that Apple is still pushing forward boundaries in the tech landscape.
P.S. No U2, if you force people to "own" your album, it doesn't make it the "biggest album launch ever.