No Surprises at Apple's Spring Event

Thoughts from the Apple Spring event in Cupertino and a look at some of the new offerings on the eve of the company's 40th birthday.

iThings getting smaller again

The headlines from this year's Apple Spring launch event are all about the latest in the line of iPhones and iPads.

After the jumbo 'phablet' 6 series of the iPhone and the 12.9" iPad Pro, Apple has taken an about-turn and released smaller versions of both.

The iPhone SE boasts similar spec to the 6S but with a return to the 4" screen of earlier iPhones. Tim Cook tells us that half of those who purchase a 4" iPhone are first time iPhone purchasers. Apple have inferred this is because they prefer a 4" screen but I would have to speculate that's because a) the older models are cheaper and b) new iPhone purchasers have probably not yet tried to watch a video or typed out a document on the tiny screens.

 

 

 

The new iPad Pro (Apple)

I think Apple may have tripped themselves up with the smaller 9.7" iPad Pro too: Its spec is higher than the larger model and incorporates new features, leaving a void where the Top Of The Range iPad should be until the larger size catches up, possibly in the Autumn. If Apple fanatics are aspirational - and they are - neither of the iPad Pros are going to quite cut the mustard.

Let There Be Light

Some of the most exciting announcements at the event were all innovations in light technology.

A new 'Night Shift' feature in iOS 9.3 will switch the colour spectrum of the device after dark (according to sun down over the user's territory rather than light sensors). With less of the 'harmful' blue light spectrum before bedtime, Apple have made an effort at ensuring iPhone and iPad users should find it easier to get a good night's sleep - although with no Scientific claims behind the feature the smart money is still on leaving your devices alone a couple of hours before bedtime.

 

True Tone adjusts the display output to match ambient light (Apple)

Next, Apple tackles headaches and concentration with 'True Tone' on the new iPad Pro. Sensors on the device help the display to mimic the dominant ambient colours in the room, which should make the experience of looking at screens more natural - in fact, more like old-fashioned paper, which reflects light shades in the room. This is a feature we can expect Apple to gradually roll out across its desktop range, as it should improve the experience of anyone reading a book on an iPad or spending hours at a workstation with their Mac.

Finally, the Cupertino company have solved the problem of taking selfies in the dark. The screen of the new iPhone and iPad have the capability to flash ultra-bright so people can take photos of themselves in the dark - and I'm sure somebody, somewhere, will have a healthy, legitimate use-case for this new feature.

A Force For Good

Tim Cook gave clues that Apple may have a bit of an internal conflict going on between sustainability and PC bashing, not that many people seemed to spot it.

Apparently 600 million PCs still in use are over 5 years old. Apple tell us this is a shame and  that they should all be replaced with Apple devices. Ordinarily this is humurous, however at the Spring event it was in the context of telling us about Apple's sustainability programme. Context is everything. Oh, and they a robot they called 'Liam' that can dismantle iPhones. That'll solve it. So in 2016 environmental and ethical issues remain a missing jewel in Apple's otherwise flawless crown.

If bereft of ideas for a new iThing at the moment, the very best thing Apple is doing at the moment is helping Universities and health institutions to make giant strides in medical research and improving its deployment tools for educatiors. Apple is now rolling out a treatment tool for Parkinson's alongside its Research Kit and the potential applications for its devices given their huge breadth of ownership is nothing short of awe inspiring. We may well be seeing in a few years' time that Apple helped cure something.

The doughnut

So, the Spring event has rarely been the platform for a big launch - it's usually an update. 

You can't help but wonder, as Apple turns 40, whether a Steve Jobs-less organisation has really got it in them to continue to revolutionise technology as they have done consistently since 1976.

On the horizon is the unveiling of the new $5b doughnut-shaped Apple Campus 2 and the top minds there probably need to bed in for a good few years before we see another game changer to rival the Mac, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone or the iPad.

For now anyway, it's business as usual - maybe we can expect an iCar, or perhaps Tim Cook has something else up his sleeve. 

Apple Campus 2 Construction March 2016 (YouTube)