Aug 14

iPhone and iWatch: a dual debut?

In a re/code article on Wednesday, John Paczkowski stated with conviction that iWatch will make its debut on September 9th, along with the new iPhone(s).

Within a day, there were a hundred stories reporting that bit of news — either citing John as the source or simply presenting it as fact. Computerworld actually ran the headline Apple makes Sept. 9 event official, hints at more than iPhone 6. Uh … not really. All Apple did was send out an invitation.

Now I happen to have a lot of respect for John, and he may well be right. Still, one can’t help but marvel at how quickly unverified stories spread.

Whether it’s true or not, this isn’t the kind of decision Apple makes lightly. It’s fun to imagine the two sides of the debate — do we launch these products in two separate events or combine them into one?

Since I wasn’t invited to the meeting, I’ll have this debate with myself.

We must have two events!

Ken, how dare you even think of combining two fantastic events? Have you lost your Apple senses?

How quickly you forget The Teachings Of Steve. “Thou shalt milk every new product for maximum buzz.” The whole world is anticipating the iPhone 6, grasping at every new rumor. The web will reverberate for weeks about this one event alone.

And then we’ll do it all again for iWatch. Two nuclear explosions for the price of one. Well, okay, we’ll spend twice as much, but you get my drift.

Lest you forget, no truly revolutionary product in Apple’s history has ever been launched alongside another. It’s a waste of marvel. Every great Apple product is launched in a spotlight, and that spotlight is only big enough for one.

Here’s something else to consider. You don’t need an iPhone to enjoy its built-in features or all the cool wrist-apps that will be available in the App Store. Present iPhone and iWatch together and you might create the false impression that iWatch is only for iPhone people. The iWatch market is vastly bigger than that.

Sit down, I’m not done with you.

How much money do you think people have to spend on all this i-stuff? The iWatch isn’t cheap. Is it realistic to get people digging into their pockets for an iPhone 6, and then, on the very same day, tell them they need to spend another $300-400 on the iWatch? There’s only so much cash we can squeeze out of them. Far smarter to get people fired up about iPhone 6, then hit them up a month later with iWatch.

We must have one event!

Ken, haven’t you ever played Blackjack? Don’t you know you’re never supposed to split a winning hand?

There are two big, juicy reasons to combine the iPhone and iWatch events. This would be the biggest event in Apple history, at a time when people have dared to question us. And — these are two products that are made to work together.

Like you just said, Apple has never combined two revolutionary products this way. So what. We will now stand Apple tradition on its head. This will be Tim’s blockbuster moment, forever etched in history. Can you not imagine the extraordinary buzz from one monster over-the-top event, three months before the holidays?

This is a case where the whole is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts. One earthshaking event has more value than two “typical” Apple events.

I can see it now: we get an hour’s worth of theatrics and demos for the new iPhone models, followed by the launch of Apple’s long-awaited “next revolution.” And then the kicker. Tim says: “You’ve seen the new iPhone. You’ve seen the fabulous new iWatch. Each is amazing on its own — but just wait till you see what they can do together.”

Get your head out of the past, Ken. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

Looking forward to Tuesday

There really is a decent argument on both sides. But now that I’ve talked it over with myself, I’m hoping John Paczkowski is right. One massive event would be amazing. All those “Apple doesn’t innovate” arguments would be banished forever. (Or a year, whichever comes first.)

The two products have a symbiotic relationship, and seeing them in action together would be super-compelling. I love the fact that this event is happening in the very spot where Macintosh and iMac were launched. Quite symbolic.

I’m also curious to find out why Apple needs that “massive structure” at the Flint Center. Something tells me it isn’t going to be for a Samsung-style symphony orchestra.

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  • Joshua

    It turns out Apple Watch (iWatch) and the iPhone 6 have been announced together. Ken, can you your opinions on the Apple Watch, iPhone 6, or the Apple Event? Thanks!

  • Hamish

    Looking forward to your event analysis Ken. A lot to like, but a lot to be disappointed with, I thought.

    My disappointment was actually less with the products and more with the presentation. While I really liked their previous “What we believe” intro video, this new one felt like too much hyperbole, verging into self-importance and / or overstated puffery by the end.

    Once it got going, I felt they rushed through the iPhones too fast and talked about technical specifications too much. Two new display sizes and no case made for why. A tedious game demo that wasted stage time, when a video could have shown these capabilities in two minutes. An awful ‘broken payment’ video to introduce a genuinely innovative Apple Pay solution. Too much technical information about the new camera. Not enough on iOS 8 and new features there. Rush rush rush and we’re done with the iPhones. ‘Bigger than bigger’? Not a good line.

    Then Tim introduced the Apple Watch with little drama and without making a proper case for it, unlike Steve who was very careful to do so with the iPhone and iPad. Perhaps because there simply isn’t a compelling one for the Apple Watch yet? (I actually think there is, but it wasn’t made).

    While the watch videos were cool and the presentation generally good, the things they didn’t say also spoke volumes to me – battery life, water resistance, proper pricing and more. The bombshell that it’s basically useless without pairing to an iPhone was dropped by the second fellow as a throwaway line, as if it was a given – with no reason and no explanation as to why pairing them is a good thing (which it clearly is, it just wasn’t presented properly.)

    Don’t get me wrong – there’s some genuinely cool stuff in there that only Apple would think of (electronic ‘taps’, digital touch sketches, the health app, Apple Pay). The user interface looks good and the digital crown is compelling. The watch is a lot more capable than I expected it to be – in retrospect, technologies unveiled at WWDC like Handoff and being able to make calls on your Mac while your phone is over the room, now make a lot of sense for the watch. However, I thought the selection of actual watch face designs was very poor – I didn’t like any of them! This is an area ripe for Apple and third-parties to improve on.

    I genuinely like the concept of an Apple smartwatch and can see a very definite future for iterative versions. but thought this launch presentation lacked clear focus on killer features or a compelling argument for using the watch over a phone. How they sell this is going to be interesting too – over 2 million combinations of bands and faces?! I’m also guessing that the $349 starting price is very basic and a half-decent one will cost north of $500. The good thing is that presumably iterative versions will fit the same straps, so you’ll only be upgrading the face module every few years.

    So to sum up – products: good (all of them, though I still think a 5.5” iPhone is an answer to competition, not need); presentation: bad. Someone needs to plan the narrative better for events like this (Apple, I’m available if you’re listening!)

    Two last notes: First, Tim now seems very comfortable presenting – I think he’s a lot better than he himself thinks he is, so it’s a shame he doesn’t take on more of it. Second, the new naming system: the Apple Watch? Apple Pay? What’s going on here – ‘i’ fatigue, legal issues or a movement towards fashion label territory?

    I haven’t even talked about Apple’s new website; its new font (developed for the watch); Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake; U2; streaming issues, fashion vs. technology positioning and more. One thing’s for sure – it was a huge event. I’m just not sure it will stick in the annuals of time (ha, I got one in!) like other new product Apple keynotes have before.

    And where was Craig Federighi?!