The Apple Keynote

It played like a commercial.

Actually, the product introduction was not the biggest Apple news today, no, that was the security update, to deal with an Israeli snooping program that infiltrated your device without any clicks, without you doing anything. It could listen and see you and… The best account of what transpired is here: 

“Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw – Researchers at Citizen Lab found that the NSO Group, an Israeli spyware company, had infected Apple products without so much as a click”:

Bottom line, update your Apple products IMMEDIATELY! Your iPhone, iPad, Mac… And if the update wasn’t automatically pushed to you yet, go into Settings and click on “Software Update,” on the iPhone and iPad it’s under the heading “General.”

So Steve Jobs staged a show. Then again, he was a showman. A natural born seller of products. Didn’t matter what he was offering, you were interested in the spiel. Today? You could have skipped it no problem. But if you watched it…

It began with a commercial for California that was so rich you’d want to fly out here or if you already live here get in your car and go for a drive. With all this focus on government, all the put-downs of the Golden State, one forgets what a cornucopia of attractions, of landscapes, of cities California is. However, the song that played during the montage…who came up with this? Talk about a track not being a hit.

So then Tim Cook comes on and tells us about Apple TV+.

Now that’s a flawed streaming network. It’s simple, THEY NEED MORE PRODUCT! The nature of making TV is you don’t know what you’ve got till you’re done. You can hire the best people and have the best script and still end up with a turkey, which is why you have to make more product to get more hits. Apple’s got a lot of flashy shows that aren’t worth watching. As for “Ted Lasso”… Believe me, when Apple gets rid of the free subscriptions no one is going to wait for week to week for the episodes, they’re gonna wait for the series to play and then binge it for one low monthly fee. Tim Cook babbled on about satisfying the company’s customers, how they’re number one, but nothing could be further from the truth with Apple TV+.

As for the Apple TV…

Apple was way ahead of the game. And then it blew it. The iPod was expensive upon launch but when competitors jumped into the game they kept improving the product and lowering the price and no one could compete. Apple’s TV hardware is still too expensive. Especially when you can get a competing streaming stick for fifty bucks. It doesn’t matter how good the interface is, the price point is insane.

But Apple is killing it with the Watch.

Actually, the Watch is akin to a Microsoft product. Released half-baked and then improved over time. The Watch still has a power problem, it has to be charged every eighteen hours, but if you don’t have a Watch you will, it’s just a matter of time. The Swiss timepieces are now jewelry. They weathered the initial launch of the Apple Watch, but youngsters are never going to lay down four figures, never mind five, for the icons of horology. And like Tesla, Apple is so far ahead of the competition that no one can effectively compete. And Apple has lowered the price to the point where it makes no sense to buy a cheap competitor, you can get a Series 3 for $199. But really, you want the new one, the Series 7, BECAUSE IT’S BIGGER! Not too big, but they shrunk the borders and increased the screen size just enough to make a huge difference. As for applications…

Seems like the Watch now interfaces with every sport. And it’s a direct line to your health.

And speaking of health/exercising… Apple Fitness+ finally looks mature. It could put a big dent in Peleton. Like the Watch, it will take time for it to burgeon.

As for the iPad…

The basic iPad, at $329, is a vast improvement. However, never forget you’re getting the A13 Bionic chip when the state of the art is the A15. In other words, you’re already two generations behind, which means you’ll have to replace it sooner.

As for the iPad Mini… A breakthrough, but vastly overpriced. It’s dead in the water at this cost.

As for buying an iPad…you either need one or you don’t. And if you already have one the only reason to replace it is if yours is too slow. And it eventually will be. The chips get faster, the software asks more of them and your old iPad is left in the dust. So, only buy cheap if you’re getting it for a kid or you’re going to replace it soon or you only watch movies. Otherwise, buy as much machine as you can afford. I’ve got one of the iPad Pros with the M1 chip and…it’s stupendous. Assuming you want an iPad.

As for the new iPhone?

You don’t need it, you don’t need to upgrade. Remember when you had product envy, when you needed the new thing, the latest iteration? Those days are through with the iPhone. If you’ve got a 12, you do not need a 13, no way.

The sales pitch was bogus. They kept comparing the speed of the new A15 Bionic chip to…other smartphones, the competition, whereas they used to compare the new chip to the old one. Can’t be much of an improvement if they didn’t say so.

And buy the most you can afford. I’ll tell you to buy an iPhone Pro Max hands down, it’s the one. You want that screen real estate, your smartphone is now you’re number one device, this is where you should not skimp. And since you’re going to keep it for a while, when you amortize the price over years, it’s worth it.

As for storage? Always bump up from the minimum amount. Sure, so much is in the cloud these days, files are in many cases history, but if you want to load up your iPhone or iPad with movies for an intercontinental flight, you want to have enough storage. Trust me on this. And unless you know you need the most, don’t even bother, it’s way overkill.

Going deeper…

You know whether you need a new iPhone or not.

If you still have an iPhone with a button, you can probably go one more cycle, one more year, but this might be a good time to upgrade.

As for 5G? The speed increase is imperceptible unless you have Verizon Ultra Wideband or the equivalent. But that speed is almost nowhere. Verizon has installed it in stadiums, so if you’ve got a 5G iPhone that’s great, but… Furthermore, the iPhone with 5G defaults to LTE to save battery life. At some point you’ll get a 5G phone, but you don’t need to rush to do so today.

However, one big caveat, if you’ve got an old iPhone and use it a lot, I heartily recommend going to a 13, because of the chip speed. You’ve got no idea how slow your old iPhone is until you’re on a new one. Ditto with the iPads with faster chips. It’s like going from a dial phone to a push button one.

As for the Wall Street perspective?

People will replace their devices, but there won’t be a rush to the store for iPhones. Sure, at first there will be demand, but we know it always falls off after Christmas. Unless the carriers offer incentives.

This time, Apple got out ahead. Instead of waiting for the carriers to blow out the iPhone, they made the providers part of the pitch. Trade in your iPhone, get up to $700! Yeah, if you trade in last year’s top of the line iPhone. Go into the fine print. The monthly price looks low, but it’s over thirty months! You’re essentially paying retail. Then again, after years of prices holding firm, last year AT&T started blowing out the new iPhone and T-Mobile and Verizon got on board too. So, if you’re looking for a deal, wait, up to two months. But I wouldn’t count on getting a big discount this year. Then again, you can never underestimate T-Mobile in its dash for market share.

So you’ve got a mature company with a great product line trying to expand into services. And if you’re locked into the Apple ecosystem, maybe, but if you’re not… Never forget, the United States is an outlier, in the rest of the world Android rules. And as smartphones become ever more mature and fungible Apple becomes Sony in the seventies and eighties, selling a premium product to a specialized audience for more money. Then there’s a product revolution and the advantage collapses. TVs went from tubes to flat screens and Sony has never recovered. So how does Apple plan to stay ahead? Well, it’s the ecosystem, and they’re doing a good job of it, but someone else could compete, if they cared, but they don’t seem to. Then again, imagine this spyware crisis on Android. Everybody’s on a different version of the operating system, many without a direct upgrade path. But it’s been learned that people will sacrifice their privacy for price, it’s no competition.

So this was maybe the worst Apple Keynote ever. It had no sizzle, no buzz. It had a rainbow of diversity on display, but in many cases that’s what you saw, the woman or the person of color more than the product. The woman who talked about the chip was the best. She looked like she knew what she was talking about, not just a talking head. She looked like she worked in the lab. She looked like she knew more than we could comprehend. And she wasn’t Hollywood beautiful, she was just a person. She couldn’t be replaced, but everybody else on screen could have been.

So Microsoft may overtake Apple as the world’s most valuable company.

But I’m still a member of the ecosystem.

Yet the truth is the biggest star in today’s presentation was California itself. Look at the landscape, check out the locations, you’ll want to go.

“Oh California, I’m coming home.”

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