September 15, 2020 Keynote Thoughts
Initial thoughts on the Sept 15 keynote: kinda underwhelming. There were a few notable announcements:
O2 sensor was the highlight of the event (and how timely), though we are missing some important details like when it samples in the background and how accurate it is. As with any health-related consumer technology there’s a catchy story and marketing here, but I don’t buy the message until we see some hard science about how well it works in practice.
The Apple Watch SE is probably a good move and may end up being the best selling version. Apple continues to cut price and double down on cheaper materials (and adding color) which I think acknowledges that they understand this is mainly going to appeal to customers as an inexpensive fun sports watch, not dressy jewelry. Price still isn’t where I think it should be though; volume will probably turn a corner when they can get this down to $200 or lower.
The family + watch stuff is interesting; I can see this being a compelling product for parents who want a timekeeping GPS tracker strapped to their kids at all times. I can’t see kids really enjoying using it though. Siri would be a pain for serious messaging, as would long phone calls talking into your wrist, and there aren’t really compelling apps.
Touch ID and Face ID in iPads heralds a potential return of Touch ID to phones as well. I think this could be a good move, given that COVID makes Face ID suck, and there are some security concerns with Face ID as well. It can’t be that expensive to add both sensors at iPhone price points anyway.
Maybe I’m just getting bad at drinking the kool-aid, but parts of this keynote were downright cringe-worthy. I could barely stomach the “my watch can do that” ad; this was a total Homer Car moment to me. Shoving an endless number of tiny sensors into a gadget doesn’t make it a good, balanced product. Little moments in the ad focused on the “neatness” of having all these sensors and features, less on why the product as a whole actually exists.
I also raised an eye a bit at the Fitness+ stuff. Apple is offering a service that nobody else can because the hardware is just too locked down and restrictive. It’s almost the best example to date of the kind of stranglehold Apple has on the market, especially with watch (which has such poor third party support that it’s basically only a first party device). Lots of other players like Nike and Strava likely have more interesting products to offer in this space, but they will never be allowed by Apple to compete. This is a shitty deal for consumers, especially during COVID where these types of at-home fitness products could actually make a real difference.
I know I’m often negative about Apple these days but it is really hard to understand what the end game is here. If I fast forward 10 years, is my life just an increasingly-large pile of Apple smart products that I have to charge nightly, that only talk to each other, that only run Apple apps or approved apps? Tied to a pile of Apple subscription services that I pay for monthly? That seems downright dystopian.