It’s been a few days since Apple’s WWDC keynote, which is plenty of time to let the info sink in. But every time I sit down to write my impressions of it, I get stymied. It’s strange; I’m not usually at a loss for words. This time though, I’m struggling to shape my thoughts in any cohesive way.
I admit, when it comes to tech, I have multiple personality syndrome. (I’m a Gemini, so I guess it’s expected.) My inner geek focuses on specs, competitors, carrier issues, etc, while the consumer in me doesn’t care about who came up with what first — she just wants something pretty, fast and fun to use. It’s like having two different people inside duking it out. Most of the time, I can balance it, but my thoughts about the new iPhone are the most divergent of any smartphone to date.
So friends, buckle up: I’ve basically got two very different kinds of impressions here — fired off by both halves of my split personalities. Sometimes they meld, and at times they seem to contradict. But they are both genuine. (At least for now. We’ll have to see what happens when I actually get my hands on this device.)
So pick the post that appeals to you: The nerd perspective (below) or the consumer approach. I leave the choice up to you.
Here’s Part 1.
The geek in me is kind of ticked off
My first impression of the keynote: “Wow, I may actually be a little mad at Gizmodo right now.” It’s the irritation you get when someone leaks your surprise party to you ahead of time. Although I’d hoped there would be some new things, for the most part — what we saw before was what we got.
We were already familiar with the form factor, many of the specs, and — thanks to Apple’s own Sneak Preview — the OS. Sure, the new apps mentioned at the keynote offered some terrific surprises, but something was still lacking.
So when a handset’s hardware and software have been spoiled, what else is there to spark excitement? The only other offering that would’ve made the event sizzle was a second carrier. Now, I didn’t actually expect Jobs to drop a bomb here, but somehow, I still looked for clues that Apple might be partnering with someone — anyone — other than AT&T. And I didn’t realize I was holding my breath, waiting for an inkling, until Jobs unveiled his “one more thing,” and I exhaled in disappointment. (No offense to FaceTime, which I’m actually looking forward to using.)
The lack of anything resembling a hint was the biggest disappointment of the day for lots of folks, both investors and users.
That may be why Apple shares actually fell 2 percent (to $250.94 on the Nasdaq) instead of gaining. Barring a complete scrapping and reinvention of the smartphone paradigm — complete with exomorphic casing, holographic projection, and 4GHz processor — the single biggest game changer investors wanted to see for the iPhone was multiple carriers. (Forgive the hyperbole, but it almost seems like nothing less could excite jaded industry watchers these days.)
Playing “catch up”
Or maybe it wasn’t the numerous leaks at fault for the disappointment. Maybe it was the actual handset and the OS.
Multitasking, LED flash, HD recording, faster processor — these are already available on other phones. The competition also has swappable batteries and microSD card slots which, let’s face it, iPhone users will never see. The iPh4 has a new 5MP camera — a definite improvement over the 3MP of the previous version — but the upper echelon of phones have already started offering 8MP and more. (I know, megapixel count isn’t a good way to judge cameras, but still…) And that speedy A4 processor? Well it’s about time Apple packed in something that was on par with Snapdragon’s 1 GHz chipset.
What the iPhone 4 has over the competition may be a glorious 326 ppi “Retina Display,” which is as good as, if not better than Super AMOLED, with more pixels per inch than the naked eye can register. Yes, it’s beautiful. The display, at 960×640 res, is stunning even. But it’s offered in a 3.5-inch screen, despite the fact that bigger displays are seriously trending high. (In my fantasy, there’d be some sort of iPhone/EVO mash-up of screens, with that Retina Display on a 4.3” area. #Drool.)
While Apple did offer some very decent upgrades that were long overdue, were they really worthy of all that gushing by Steve Jobs? It’s debatable.
Before you brand me a turncoat that’s gone from iPhone fan to hater, I do credit Jobs & Co. for improvements that successfully recast an aging smartphone as a more viable competitor in the current market. And that’s all good. In fact, it’s really, really good. But there were no game changers here. Instead, the game that was played was “catch up” — which would’ve been fine for any other handset refresh. But when there’s so much hype, so much posturing from a CEO, more than an “evolutionary” step is called for. It warranted something revolutionary. Extraordinary, even. And this just wasn’t it.
So contrary to the latest tagline for the phone — “This changes everything. Again” — this didn’t actually change anything. (Again.)
Take all this with a grain of salt. I warned you at the top that I was of two minds about this device. This is the jaded tech blogger talking right now, the one who’s had the good fortune to play with lots of different kinds of phones, laments about her friend (a newbie Android user) not using half the functionality of his beautiful new Sense-packing HTC Incredible, and follows the major mobile tech players like they’re sports teams.
The consumer in me, however, has a completely different point of view. My inner tech nerd may be saying, “Bah!”, but the consumer within is sated. No, not just sated — genuinely happy.
(Click here for Part 2: My inner consumer is tickled.)