The iPhone 6: game-changer or more swag?

18 Sep 2014

It's been seven years since Apple launched its first iteration of the iPhone. Back then, a turtlenecked Steve Jobs brandished the much-anticipated device to the Apple faithful and declared: “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”

Jobs was often prophetic, though not always correct. While the “walled garden” created by Apple (fenced in by iTunes, their App Store, and iCloud data service) has proven popular, the open-source Android OS championed by Google now boasts majority market-share in the phone/tablet market. Android and its variants drive devices from Chinese OEMs like ZTE and Xiaomi. The latter even makes a line of TV sets that run on Android.

Ironically, Xiaomi chairman and CEO Lei Jun styles himself after the iconic Jobs, right down to a designed-casual look for product announcements. Perhaps Apple did reinvent the phone, but to the benefit of both themselves and their competitors – and many of those competitors cleave to Android.

Now we have a brace of much-anticipated devices from Apple – finally, iPhones with larger screens. Although handset-makers like Samsung have eaten Apple's lunch with a plethora of screen-sizes, Apple has clung to relatively smaller displays, counting on their iOS, apps ecosystem and brand-equity to shift units.

As expected, the iPhone 6 comes in two sizes, both larger than any previous Apple phone. The larger model boasts a 5.5-inch screen with a 1920x1280 display at 401 ppi – topping Cupertino's “Retina Display” of 326 ppi. 1080p video playback will look eerily sharp on this thing – let's hope that passengers on Hong Kong's MTR remember to use their earphones.

By enlarging their screen sizes, has Apple reinvented the iPhone? Nope. The first iPhone was a catalyst, “combining the iPod, mobile phone, 2-megapixel camera and an Internet communicator in one device,” as ZDNet's Dan Farber blogged back in 2007.

This latest batch may have more screen area to scroll across, but they're iterations of a pre-existing device. They're also the first phones to be pre-loaded with Apple's iOS 8. The peripheral, the Apple Watch, seems more an accessory for the fashion-conscious than a revolutionary piece of kit.

But Apple also announced a mobile payment system which impressed fellow Telcom Asia blogger Tony Poulos. “Apple Pay is a masterstroke of genius that guarantees Apple a place in the finance and banking world, to go with its disruptive and, for a long time, dominant role in the telco space,” wrote Poulos.

“Apple has pulled off what countless pretenders have tried already but failed at – becoming the trusted partner to those ever-fearful card issuers,” wrote Poulos.” And it’s not as if it did anything revolutionary, Apple just bided its time to weed out what everyone in the chain really wanted – security and simplicity.”

It sounds promising and many have commented that Apple Pay should benefit not only the fruitarians in Cupertino but also their competitors. More granular info on Apple Pay in this article from Bank Innovation.

According to Yahoo, banks including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup agreed to integrate their cards into the Apple Pay system. “Under deals reached with banks individually, Apple and other related tech companies will have a share of more than US$40 billion that banks generate annually from so-called swipe fees,” said Yahoo. How well Apple Pay will fare amid other swipe-pay services globally is the main question – stay tuned.

And there's another bright shining star in Apple's unveiling: no more “sneak peeks” of alleged iPhone prototypes from tech media pundits. Now it's up to suppliers in spiffy blue t-shirts at the Apple store (and grey-market vendors in the phonebooth-size stalls at Mongkok's Allied Plaza) to deliver the units, starting September 19.

Expect controlled chaos.

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