Bit of an anticlimax
Apple kept us waiting 16 months for the successor to the hugely successful iPhone 4, but today the waiting was over. This was the first Apple product launch hosted by new CEO Tim Cook, who took over when the iconic Steve Jobs decided to step back in August.
Cook started with a snapshot of Apple's product range. He talked about the MacBook Air and, accurately, said Apple's competitors are trying to copy it - Ultrabooks - before going on to talk about how Apple consistently out-performs the PC market.
Onto music: Apple has apparently sold a lot of iPods and songs on iTunes. Who knew? Moving quickly onto phones - Apple has shifted a far few of these too, apparently. For iPads Cook chose to focus on different verticals that are into them, such as education and health care before reverting to the familiar gloating theme and lots more blah about iOS 5, before finally announcing it will be released on 12 October, as will iCloud.
Finally - after 45 minutes - we got onto some product launches. The iPad Nano UI has been changed, and there are some improved fitness features, if that's your thing. It will cost $129 for the 8GB one and $149 for the 16GB one, from today. The Touch new comes in both black and white, and will run iOS 5. The 8GB, 16GB and 32GB ones will cost $199, $299 and $399 respectively when they launch on 12 October.
The main event: the iPhone 4S. Same design as the iPhone 4, but with an A5 chip, so Apple chose to focus on all the Imagination Technologies graphical goodness this enables without sacrificing battery life. Apparently they've doubled the maximum HSDPA download speeds thanks to tinkering with the antenna too. There's now an 8MP camera and both GSM and CDMA modems.
We were sort of hoping the time-honoured, Columbo-style ‘...one last thing' announcement would be a super-duper iPhone 5, but instead it was a voice-recognition feature called Siri, which Apple acquired back in April 2010, and which aims to raise the bar on voice interaction with devices.
It looks like we're heading for a Knight Rider scenario with our phones, with AI interpreting what we mean, rather than taking us literally. More Hal 9000, perhaps? There were lots of demos which increased the unsettling sense of having some kind of omniscient super-being in your phone. What happens when it becomes self-aware?
And that was it, apart from the inevitable cheapening of older iPhones and a launch date of 14 October for the new guy, which now goes up to 64GB. We will doubtless reflect on the significance of these launches in due course, but our first impression is that we've got pretty much what we expected, and nothing more. The problem is that Apple has set a very high bar for itself when it comes to blowing people away, and this event has left a bit of a ‘meh!' feeling.