Today, we’ll be presented with the next iPhone and, possibly, the new Apple Watch.
I’m not very excited at all.
This bothers me. Because I used to get really excited about Apple events. There was always a palpable sense of expectation and a feeling that we were about to be treated to yet more revolutionary products.
So, what has changed? Why do I feel like I’m simply covering today’s event because I have to?
Don’t get me wrong – there have been some superb Apple events over the last few years; the Mac event last November that saw the launch of the brilliant M1 chip was industry-defining. But the company’s annual halo event which has been the hallmark of the iPhone feels flat this year.
That got me thinking: what do I miss about Apple events?
1. Steve Jobs
It’s fashionable not to mention Jobs when it comes to Apple’s current endeavours.
How can you compare what Tim and co. are doing to a guy who is no longer with us? Of course, it would be different under his watch.
But I don’t care. I miss that guy. He was a troublesome individual, by all accounts, and I’m not convinced I’d want to work beneath him, but he was the embodiment of the Apple magic that is slowly evaporating from much of its product line.
Captivating, funny, and one of the greatest storytellers in tech, Jobs made every event special. The love and affection he had for his company and its products was infectious, and it’s something that always feels forced by Apple’s current lineup of presentation-trained-to-death execs and product leads.
We have to move on from Jobs, I know. But he’s the single biggest reason that Apple events simply aren’t as exciting as they once were.
2. “One more thing…”
We always knew it was coming. Sometimes, we’d know exactly what it would be, but that simply raised the excitement levels even higher for each Apple event.
“There’s just one more thing,” Jobs would say, hands clasped behind his back, eyes wandering across the floor as he paced around the stage.
The list of Apple products that were revealed during the “one more thing” section number among their most successful and innovative. A brilliant list compiled by Macworld reveals these gems:
- Apple AirPort (1999)
- Power Mac G4 Cube (2000)
- 30” Cinema Display (2004)
- MacBook Pro (2006)
- FaceTime (2010)
- MacBook Air (2010)
- Apple Watch (2014)
- iPhone X (2017)
You’ll no doubt have spotted that a couple of the products above were announced after Jobs’ death, and I dearly wish they’d continued the trend.
It was such a simple stage trick and one that was often reserved for the biggest announcement of the event. Apple knew this, and they knew that most of the audience was in on it, too. It was brilliant.
Apple is about as stubborn a tech company as you’re ever likely to find. That’s why the “one more thing” section will never grace the stage again, but that doesn’t stop me from missing it – big time.
3. Relatable demos
The tech that’s present in the current generation of iPhones, iPads, and Macs is absolutely stunning; there are some incredibly smart people working on this stuff.
But it isn’t always particularly relatable.
Take augmented reality, for instance. No one outside of Apple or geomorphology knows what LiDAR is, but if you’ve got an iPhone 12 Pro, you have access to this depth-mapping technology in your pocket. You may have used it to ‘place’ an IKEA chair in your front room, or marvelled at Apple’s latest event invitation. But it won’t have changed your life or offered a meaningful, long-lasting experience.
The same goes for Dolby Vision video capture on the iPhone 12 Pro. It is utterly pointless, and nothing more than Apple flexing its considerable tech muscles.
Both of these innovations make for some very boring onstage demos, too. More worryingly, it’s impossible for most consumers to relate to them.
Contrast that with Steve Jobs sitting on a couch, holding an iPad, and reading the New York Times. That looks like a pretty satisfying thing to do, doesn’t it? He talked about wandering into the kitchen, grabbing the iPad from the side and delving into the day’s news. It was aspirational, exciting, and something to which most people could relate.
As the technology matures, these instances are, of course, going to become rarer until the next ‘big thing’ comes along. But my fear for the iPhone 13 event is that it will be a laundry list of super-impressive yet ultimately vacuous new features.
4. The stuff that went wrong
I love it when the veil slips a little.
For a company as polished and often arrogant as Apple can be, the odd slip-up on stage is pretty satisfying. It’s endearing and shows that, just like the rest of us, they’re completely fallible.
There are two examples of this that spring to mind from past events. The first was during the iPhone 4 unveiling when, 40 minutes into his keynote speech, Steve Jobs had to ask everyone in the auditorium to turn off their WiFi connections.
“So you guys have a choice: either turn off your WiFi (devices) or I give up,” he said, in typical nonchalant fashion (who else could get away with that?). “Would you like to see the demos? Then all you bloggers need to turn off your notebooks. Go ahead, just shut the lids. I’ll wait.”
And he did. It was awkward, funny, human, and didn’t damage iPhone 4 sales one bit.
My second favourite Apple event blooper came during the iPhone X launch when Craig Federighi attempted to unlock the new device via the company’s brand-new Face ID technology.
“Unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up,” he said, proudly.
It didn’t work.
“Let’s try that again,” said Federighi, undeterred, but clearly uncomfortable beneath the bright spotlight illuminating him on stage. Eventually, he had to switch to a backup device which, mercifully, worked.
Apple’s share price subsequently nosedived but ultimately recovered and the iPhone X went on to become the world’s best-selling smartphone during 2018.
We’re currently living in a world where live onstage events are either on hold or cancelled indefinitely. And as much as I enjoy the super-produced, mega-polished stuff we’re seeing from Apple at the moment, it does lose some of the jeopardy that comes with live tech demos.
Onto the next one…
I’m always willing to be proved wrong, and I dearly hope that tonight’s iPhone 13 event is going to delight, inspire, and excite.
Alas, I have a feeling those days are long gone.