eXtensions - Sunday 3 September 2017

Cassandra - Weekend Review: The Coming iPhone - Rumours, Siri, and Apple TV (Amended)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


We now know that the next iPhones are to be announced on 12 September, and the event will be held in the new Steve Jobs Auditorium on the Apple Campus. This confirmation immediately negates all those rumors from a few months back insisting that the iPhone would be delayed - perhaps to October or even November - setting up Apple for lower quarterly sales. Needless to say, the share price was depressed for a while, which was perhaps the real intent, but inevitably it bounced back.

Steve Jobs Auditorium
Steve Jobs Auditorium - image courtesy of Apple

If those rumors are to be doubted, what should we make of all the others that tell us what the next devices will or will not have, and the price? I have seen several articles from commentators with various opinions for and against a rumoured new high price (try a Goole search with iPhone + 1,000), with one (Dustin McKissen, INC) outlining why he would neever pay such a price for such a device - let's all head to Blandroid Land. The Macalope also had some fun with this in "The best of iPhones, the worst of iPhones" and like all the other rumors, we do not yet know if this is true.

I think we may be able to provide an answer to the $1,000 iPhone that is a problem for some. They are here already and I have already had a couple. Prices are a bit different here and are quoted with VAT already added, so that $999 iPhone in the USA is bound to be over $1,000 once state (and perhaps, City) taxes are included. The average income of users is also lower here.

iPhone 7 series: image courtesy of Apple It is interesting to see how many students have iPhones (a lot have other devices too of course) and several of the current models are already over that symbolic $1000, but they still sell. By all accounts they sell very well too. The iPhone 7 Plus starts just under the magic price at 31,500 baht, with the 128GB version at 35,500 baht ($1,000 is about 33,000 baht) and the 256GB iPhone at 39,500 baht. Remember too, UK prices are even higher than here with the massive 20% VAT. So, Yes, they will sell.

I will write about the device, or devices, after the announcement and when I have time to read carefully through the technical specifications, rather than - as many will do - declare it (and by extensions, Apple) dead on arrival. I have seen this type of knee-jerk reaction on a number of earlier iPhones (and of course the very first one), particularly in the "S" years, when a faster processor or better camera specifications were ignored by many so-called tech writers who claimed that the devices were unchanged.

The best of these was the iPhone 6s which not only had completely new insides, but the material for the case was changed to a totally different alloy (aluminium 7000). Even a cursory glance at the details of what was inside would have shown that "same, same" could not be the case. I expect that this will happen this time to a similar degree, although if some of the rumours are true, the claims of sameness will have to be tempered.

I expect that the facial recognition technology (if this rumor is true) will be questioned, partly because Samsung's recent solution was shown to be weak. Similar comparisons appeared when Apple's TouchID technology for fingerprint recognition was introduced, even though the solutions from Apple and Samsung were completely different.

On a related note concerning rumors, I read on a couple of sites this week that the AirPods had seen significant sales and accounted for "85% of 2017 wireless headset sales" (Philip Elmer-DeWitt, Apple 3.0). Elmer-DeWitt cites 900,000 total for the USA, which means 765,000 AirPods just in America. There seems to be some contradiction here when we examine the early reports of them being unavailable (the wait time was 6 weeks), uncomfortable and easy to drop (not my experience, nor that of most other early adopters who wrote about these), and unsightly.

If you think that walking about town with a bright red pair of Beats phones sitting on top of your head somehow makes these less visible, I suggest a glance in a mirror might correct that view. Or maybe it is just because there is an Apple logo stamped on the side. Note also that Apple was awarded 7 design patents for the AirPods recently.

That logo usually brings out the negative comments whenever possible, but not when similar problems occur with devices that are not from Apple. I took a local Twitter user to task on the lack of comment when one of these devices had a problem, when earlier he had been all over anything that hinted at the fallibility of Cupertino. After pressing him a number of times for a suitable reaction, he mercifully blocked me.

There was an interesting shift at Apple recently when the executive pages on the Apple site were updated to show that responsibility for Siri had been shifted from Eddy Cue to Craig Federighi, who seems to have rather broad shoulders these days (Micah Singleton, The Verge). It is believed that this change will free up Cue to chase the content that is so sorely needed for the sluggish AppleTV and goes with the rumors that Apple is after the same studio space in which Gone with the Wind was made.

I am sure Apple will also be encouraged by the news that Siri won an Emmy last week, when the award for Technical/Engineering Achievement. Rene Ritchie (iMore) writes that "Siri on Apple TV is notable because it can handle multiple sequential languages, which is an incredibly tough problem to crack." It would be nice to try that: not available here. Apple does have a page that shows what is available (or not) on iOS round the world. Thailand does reasonably well on Maps and Keyboards, modestly with Siri, OK with CarPlay, fairly well with iTunes, but not TV (only 6 countries surprisingly), not at all well with Spotlight and not News, which is a great app if you have access.

AppleTV here is a real disappointment in comparison, not the least with the price as the device attracts extra duties in Thailand, before VAT, making it more expensive than in other places. With no Siri, no major news channels, few online movie sources and a weak selection of apps, it pales in comparison with what is available elsewhere. The only things that make it of value to me are the relatively diluted Netflix service, and iTunes music. Even that is poor in comparison with what is available in other countries (to be fair, I pay a lower fee) with far fewer artists (I know, copyright) and no video content from Apple Music, like Planet of the Apps or Carpool Karaoke.

Let me put that in context: I hate karaoke and although James Corden's concept is fun, I would be unlikely to watch it. But I am not everyone, and my point here is that those subscribing to Apple Music here don't even have access to these in-house productions. What chance is there for future output if Eddy Cue starts the ball rolling, for example with the new Jennifer Aniston show that both Apple and Netflix are bidding for (Chris Smith, BGR)?

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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