Opinion: Apple's Unveiling Left an Underwhelming Aftertaste

As much as I may have held my fingers crossed, wishing and hoping that Apple had somehow managed to keep some secrets stashed away about today's product unveilings, wishing apparently doesn't make it so. Instead, like years past, there was very little (nothing) that surprised me, primarily as a result of the persistent internet leaks that have plagued the company's product launches for years now. That's not to say I wasn't impressed. I was, although only mildly so. Right now Apple is under more pressure and scrutiny than it has been in decades, to innovate and introduce technology that isn't just of a high quality, but also revolutionary. I couldn't help but feel like the new Apple Watch and the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were just more of the same; relatively minor incremental updates along the lines of what everyone has become so accustomed to. That's certainly not to say that the new Apple Watch Series 2 and the new iPhone 7 series aren't chock full of great features. They are. However none of the new changes and upgrades blew me away or left me in the type of awe that the original iPhone did.

Of course, Apple can't leave us with our jaws hanging in amazement every year, I get that. And if the rumor mill is to be believed, it's 2017's iPhone and Apple Watch that will see the most significant changes that we've seen in some time. But here and now, and for the next 15 months or so, Apple has only marginally managed to set itself apart from the ever-growing competition. In fact, despite the advances in the internal hardware of the new Apple Watch and iPhone, along with minor external design modifications, the new devices have little that scream for attention. I would even go so far as to say that what really sets Apple's new devices apart at this moment is their attractive ecosystem. It is Apple's walled-garden approach to iOS, its App Store, its software and the interconnectivity and intuitive nature of all of its devices that make Apple so appealing, while simultaneously making it a difficult ecosystem to just simply leave at the drop of a hat.

The Apple Watch Series 2: Still Not Sold

Opinion: Apple's Unveiling Left An Underwhelming Aftertaste.

At first glance there is nothing that sets the Apple Watch Series 1 apart from the Apple Watch Series 2. In fact, to the casual observer, even after closer inspection, with both devices powered on, there is very little that sets these two devices apart.

Even looking beyond obvious external similarities I can't help but feel like Apple could have done more. Look at the watch industry. There is undoubtedly a huge demand for round watch faces. Yet Apple hasn't catered to this market at all, even with its second generation watch, when it had yet another chance to do so. And the argument that it would be hard to design apps for a round face doesn't hold water for me. Other brands have been doing so quite well for years now, and if other brands can produce a round faced watch quite well, it stands to reason that Apple could do so exceptionally well.

Likewise, despite Samsung producing a LTE-enabled smartwatch that allows users to have many of the features and conveniences of a smartphone without actually having to be tethered to a smartphone, Apple still requires users to have an iPhone nearby in order to get the most out of your Apple Watch. I would expect that the next major redesign of the Apple Watch will include a fully independent wireless feature, but as I've said, I'm not expecting that until 2017 at the earliest. With the Gear 3 Frontier, Samsung showed that a LTE watch can be done, and done well and tastefully, with a round face. Clearly Samsung isn't afraid to experiment and push the innovation envelope, something Apple used to be known and highly regarded for doing.

Of course the dramatically improved waterproofing, the brighter display, and the slightly more powerful hardware all combine to make the Series 2 an appealing device, however it's not something I will invest in ,nor is it leaving the competition in its dust.

The iPhone 7 Series, AKA, the iPhone 6 Pro and iPhone 6 Pro Plus

Opinion: Apple's Unveiling Left An Underwhelming Aftertaste.

Which brings us to the iconic iPhone. Once upon a time, the iPhone changed not only the landscape of cellular phones, but also the entire world. Literally, if I had to think of one technological invention in the past 50 years that had the most dramatic and immediate effect on the world, it would be the 2007 iPhone. Granted, we can't expect Apple to change the world every 10 years, but at the same time I don't think it's unreasonable to expect more than incremental upgrades for 10 years. At this point many other smartphone manufacturers are offering devices that are more varied and more feature-rich than the iPhone 7 series. What they lack of course, is Apple's App Store and ecosystem. So Apple still holds on to its edge, even if only by an ever-narrowing margin.

Getting rid of the 3.5mm standard headphone jack and adding a second speaker is courageous and bold, but it won't exactly change the course of the smartphone industry. If anything, it introduces yet another element that ties users into Apple's exclusive ecosystem. The improved water resistance of the new iPhones is welcome, but not particularly unique, and the improved cameras and processing hardware are also significant upgrades from the iPhone 6s series, but again, they don't bring anything earth shattering to the table, as other smartphones already offer similar features.

You might feel that I am being unduly harsh. After all, despite my criticism, it is undeniable that the iPhone is one of the best smartphones on the market. While this may be true, it isn't the iPhone itself that makes it such an exemplary device, but rather the carefully crafted and exclusive environment of software and the supporting App Store that really distinguishes Apple from its competitors at this point. Other smartphones (and smartwatches) offer many of the features that Apple's newest devices carry, but none of them offer the intuitive nature, singular operating system, and seamless integration of Apple's devices. For many of us, that is enough. But I can't help but wonder how long Apple products with a minimal to nonexistent margin of technical superiority can continue to dominate the market share and hold the lead in terms of consumer favor.

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Author Details

Dig Om's picture

Author Details

Dig Om

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech