Let’s talk about the Apple Keynote

This is my first Tuesday post ever, deviating from my normal post days of Mondays and Thursdays. I’ve decided to try a variable publishing schedule if I miss one of my regular days but have a good idea later. So here goes!

I was deeply underwhelmed by the Apple Keynote this year, and have been a bit disappointed with the firm over the last few years. While I was never an Apple fanatic, I’ve definitely had respect for the company’s numerous accomplishments, the most important of which is the creation of the smartphone.

These days, however, it seems like they’re crutching on the smartphone. The final point of discussion during the Keynote was the iPhone X (read “10”), which is shockingly subpar given the hype around it. To recap, it’s ultra-HD, can charge wirelessly, takes better photos, and has no bezel. To unlock your phone, you use your face (imaginatively named “FaceID”).

All of these features seem somewhat par for the course for Apple; they’re simply the realization of further development work on features that the firm has placed emphasis on in the past. Simply put, tech evolves over time and gets put into phones. The most obviously special, novel feature introduced in the iPhone X was Animojis (animated emojis that work based on face tracking).

Animoji in action

Personally, though, I think the most important thing to come out of the Keynote was the demonstration of the AR game “The Machines.” This seems like a bafflingly tiny thing to pick up on but the notion of collaborative / competitive AR is really interesting to me. However, I think that Apple is thinking a bit small with something that could have been a lot bigger.

The demo would have been a lot more compelling if AR gaming was introduced in the context of a “virtual console” that sits on top of the phone. What I mean is that Apple should have shipped AR glasses and a smallish controller (similar to this Nintendo Switch controller configuration) that would run on top of game software on the phone. That way, I could set my phone down somewhere and become totally immersed in the game. Instead of using my phone as the window to another world, I’d feel more like I was really inside it.

In my view, this feels like a lost opportunity for Apple. They could have charged a lot of money for a set of “display glasses” and a controller, and could have upsold AirPods on the side to create an AR gaming combo pack for anyone looking to get a new phone.

All in all, my view is that Tim Cook is not the visionary that Jobs was. Instead, he is merely the maintainer of the empire that Jobs built. </endrant>

Also published on Medium.

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