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Apple Launch: Why Do We Still Call it a Phone?

Yesterday, while I was preparing to moderate sessions for LSA’s upcoming Place 2019 event in Austin, TX. I took a timeout to watch some of Apple’s launch announcements.

First, I was struck by the lead session – devoted solely to the launch of Apple Arcade – a gaming destination – to be available on September 19th. They’re offering unlimited access to the games in Arcade for $4.99 per month for the entire family. It’s being called a gaming service – or a SaaS service.

Next up was AppleTV+. Tim Cook kicked this off by referring to three original Apple TV productions.  He then introduced the “worldwide premiere trailer” of the new Jason Momoa vehicle See. Imagine, hyping the premiere of a trailer? Funny world we now live in. Apple TV originals will launch November 1st for $4.99 per month for the entire family. And if you buy any Apple hardware, you get Apple TV for free for 12 months.

The iPad followed and it felt like the weakest element of the day. Apple pitched a number of new features in the new iPad. What was interesting is that the biggest applause came when the starting price of $329 was announced. Apparently, there is still some interest in the iPad as long as the price is low.

Then they pitched the AppleWatch. As an avid Apple Watch user, I can say it has been hugely beneficial in changing some of the elements of my lifestyle today. Like many Apple Watch owners, closing the rings has become a bit of an obsession. Apple Watch is increasingly being positioned as a health device. In yesterday’s launch, Apple pitched how the Watch is going to study our hearing (or lack thereof). They also announced a new study related to bone density. And finally, they urged consumers to participate in Apple’s leading health research studies.

They also announced the next-generation Apple Watch – the Series 5. The new watch features an always-on display — a useful addition for those of us who use the watch to track our exercise rings. Now we won’t have to keep tapping the screen to see if we’ve completed our four-mile runs. The new Watch will include a compass to help with hiking or running. As a safety device, the watch can do emergency calling on an international basis.

While adding lots of health and safety features, Apple is also pushing fashion-centric versions of the watch with Hermes. There was considerable applause for the Series 5. Apple has also announced it has lowered the price of the older Series 3 watch to $199.

Finally, they got around to launching the iPhone 11 and touting its multiple new features. In many ways, the iPhone is as much a camera as it is a phone. Apple pitched the new and broader camera features with a focus on the ultra-wide photos. They also spent time talking about night mode for the camera, making it easier to take pictures at night. Finally, they shared some upgrades to the video capabilities of the iPhone 11.

In summary, the most interesting stuff coming out of the annual Apple launch include:

  • The focus on gaming
  • The very inexpensive family subscriptions
  • The attention to the Watch

The reasoning behind the sequencing of these announcements can be found in Apple’s financials. Wearables, and perhaps going subscription services, are picking up the slack of lagging iPhone sales.

Something else struck me. I am not sure why they still call it a phone.


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