Monday, 15 September 2014

Apple Keynote 2014: What you need to know

1984 is where it all began. That was the year a young Steve Jobs made his way onto a stage and unveiled the Macintosh. Sporting a very 80's hairdo and wearing a suit that looked like it was created for a magician, Jobs presented the Macintosh and all its capabilities to the backdrop of the theme song to Chariots of Fire by Vangelis. It was a standout and marvellous moment in the history of technology, and though Jobs would eventually be fired from Apple, he returned in 1997 and until his death in 2011, was the driving force behind Apple's creativity. Since his return the three biggest pieces of technology he ushered in were the iPod, iPhone and iPad, all of which have made an undeniably massive impact on all our daily lives. In place of Jobs since his passing, the role of Apple CEO went to Tim Cook, and although he has also brought in his fair share of Apple products since 2012, this year he might have just had his Steve Jobs moment in the sun.

Missed the Apple Keynote? Here's what you need to know.

U2 loves Apple, Apple pimps U2 out:

This was at the very end of the keynote. I know, I know, I'm getting ahead of myself, but it's worth it. As it was widely rumoured for a while, U2 turned up at the Apple conference and, well, sang a song. The track was from their latest album, Songs of Innocence, and it got the crowd fired up. But while the song was catchy in that kind of every-U2-song-sounds-the-same way, what followed came across as painfully forced and kind of hokey. Basically, Bono and Tim Cook pretended to concoct a plan that would result in Songs of Innocence being available on iTunes for free. After such a great show it felt a little like Bono and Cook were stroking their egos a little, even if it was pretty ballsy for Bono and U2 to give away an album like that.

Two versions of the iPhone 6:

At the start of the keynote Tim Cook said, “Today, we are pleased to announce the biggest advancement in iPhone.” It was a pretty big statement considering the impressive advancements the iPhone has made since its creation in 2007. However, after seeing what Apple had on offer this time around, I think his statement just might be true. Say hello to the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, the newest incarnation of the iPhone. Both are lighter and thinner than previous iPhones, but don't let that fool you as both have the biggest display of any iPhone model yet. The 6 is sporting a 4.7-inch screen, while the 6 Plus packs in with a whopping 5.5-inch screen. The 6's screen has 38% more pixels than previous models, while the 6 Plus' has 185% more. This essentially leads to a screen that is clearer and sharper than ever before.

The camera inside the 6 and 6 Plus is an 8MP iSight camera with f/2.2 aperture. This is packed alongside a new piece of Apple tech dubbed “focus sensor”, which essentially picks up on the light of objects around where you're pointing the camera, which leads to some nifty phase detection autofocus on the fly. This easily raises it above what the iPhone 5's camera was capable of, and also continues to slowly blur the line between camera phone and professional DSLR. Both the 6 and 6 Plus are thinner, lighter, more powerful and, above all else, more impressive than any iPhone model that have come before them. When Tim Cook said Apple was going to announce the biggest advancement in the iPhone yet, he wasn't kidding. I don't know about you, but I want one of these. Now. Thankfully we won't have to wait that long as pre-orders start on September 12th with shipping estimated for September 19th.

Your iPhone is now your credit card:

Prepare to be broke. If you thought keeping up-to-date with all things Apple wasn't already breaking the bank, let me introduce you to Apple Pay. Paying for goods over the counter via a mobile device isn't a completely new concept, but as of it yet it hasn't really taken off. Apple want to change that, and that comes in the form of Apple Pay. Apple Pay, an application that, once you've added credit card details to it, can be used to buy goods in any participating shop simply by holding it up against a special device, and merely holding a finger to the fingerprint reader. That's it. The transaction is quick, easy and, according to what Apple claim, incredibly safe.

Tim Cook was adamant on hitting home how out-dated the current system is. He said, “We’re totally reliant on the exposed numbers, and the out-dated and vulnerable magnetic interface, which by the way is five decades old, and the security codes which all of us know aren’t so secure.” He's right, and considering Apple Pay can be used both online and offline, this may be the tipping point that makes tech like Apple Pay a staple of everyday life.

The big reveal - The Apple Watch:

No, it's not an “iWatch”. I know, I would have assumed that they'd call it that, but hey, what do I know? The biggest reveal of the whole keynote was the reveal of the Apple Watch, Apple's attempt at defining what they believe is an out-dated piece of tech, something they previously achieved for both the phone and MP3 player. There isn't just one Apple Watch design though, as at launch there will be a staggering 34 different types of Apple Watch's on offer, each one designed for a certain style. Within this selection there are 3 “collections” - Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The wristband comes in various different designs and materials, which are stainless steel, plastic and leather. Each model also comes in two different display sizes, so whether it's the 38mm or 42mm display size, you'll no doubt find the right unique model for you.

There was also a lot of focus on the “digital crown”, the small metallic dial on the side of the Apple Watch that you will use to control the device through scrolling and flicking through screens. Don't worry though, as the device is also touch screen, and it looks like the combination of both touch screen controls and the digital crown make navigating the Apple Watch pretty slick and simple. Right from its 2015 launch it's packed with a whole hosts of built-in applications, many of which focus on health and fitness, such as dishing out various workouts for the day, and even keeping track of how many calories you're burning. There's also room for third party applications too, and while Apple did showcase a few during their presentation, I'm rather interested to see how this piece of tech is approached by developers out there, especially when it comes to applications made solely with the Apple Watch in mind, rather than merely adapting it to the device. There's no talk on the battery life just yet, which has me a little worried, but lets hope Apple can deliver something to us that won't crap out after 4 hours.

Overall I came away from this keynote thinking that Tim Cook had his Steve Jobs moment, the moment where he got on stage and, if the next few months go well, spearheaded Apple into once again revolutionizing our lives. From re-imagining the iPhone, attempting to end the credit card as we know it and redefining what is the watch, Apple are still on the forefront of design, creativity and technological brilliance. Steve Jobs may sadly not be around any more, but Apple is certainly paying a great tribute to his legacy, and long may it continue.

Denis Murphy

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