Blog 53

Apple Keynote September 2014 took place yesterday and everyone at Degree 53 were excited (apart from the android lovers, of course) to see what Apple had in store for us that night. One thing I will have to say before I start is that we were very unimpressed with the quality of the stream; I don’t know anyone who was able to watch the entire keynote without any interruptions. Hopefully Apple can sort this out for next year.

With rumors circulating social media sites, we were all expecting a new iPhone and some sort of iWatch. No surprise, we got what we expected and more, with the announcement of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 plus, Apple’s new smartwatch as well as a new payment system called Apple Pay.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone size comparison

Apple didn’t take long to introduce the new iPhone as it was the first talk of the keynote. After a short video which showcased not one but two new devices, Apple went over the specifications of the two new phones. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus share the same design but are very different when it comes to size. The iPhone 6 is 0.7 inches bigger than the previous 4inch iPhone 5S. Whilst the iPhone 6 plus is a whopping 5.5 inches that’s not far off the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. With its new curved edges, and the lock button moving to the side of the phone is does look slightly different from its predecessor.

Both devices share pretty much the same new features, with both getting a display upgrade to Apple’s new retina HD screen. Other features included an improved camera, longer battery life, NFC, and a new processor, which is 25% faster than the previous one in the iPhone 5S.

From a developer perspective, Apple has said that all current apps on the App Store will be resized to fit perfectly on the two new devices. Furthermore with the introduction of the new Xcode 6, developers will be able to change their user interfaces depending on what device its running on. Both devices will be ready for pre-order on the 12th September and released a week later on the 17th.

As well as lots of other new features one that really stood out was Apple’s new payment system, which they call Apple Pay.

Apple Pay

So the second part of the event was all about Apple’s new mobile payment system. Instead of using a card to pay for things Apple let their users imbed their card details into the secure enclave within their iPhone device. This means Apple users can use their phones to pay for things without having to hand over any card details or personal information. With just one swipe of their iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 plus they can purchase their goods. However as good as its sounds, retailers will have to upgrade their current systems to work with the NFC technology built into the new iPhone devices. Apple announced that only 220,000 stores will currently work with Apple Pay in the US, and they are working with leading banks and retailers to get Apple pay working not only across the US but worldwide as well.

Apple Pay

The final part of the talk was definitely the most talked about here at Degree 53 with divided opinions. It was of course about Apple’s new smartwatch the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch

Apple has finally made the step into wearable technology with what they are calling the Apple Watch. Branded as the most personal piece of hardware Apple has ever created, with three different styles, changeable straps and customisable clock faces. It will be available in three different editions, a stainless steel version, an aluminum sport version, and an 18c gold edition all with six different straps.

Apple Watch UI

A selection of Apple’s current apps will be available on the Apple Watch and with the use of Watch Kit; developers will be able to developer apps for the Apple Watch as well. The Apple Watch is compatible with the iPhone 5 and later devices and will need to be paired with an iPhone to gain full functionality. Apple also introduced a new messaging system they call digital touch. This allows the user to send personal things, like small drawings, gentle taps and even their own heartbeat with other Apple Watch users. The Apple watch will be available early next year with a starting price of $349.

This is what the rest of the iOS team at Degree 53 thought:

The main stars of last nights Keynotes were undoubtedly the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6(s!), which with the introduction of NFC in both devices have aided in closing the gap between iOS and Android’s capabilities. However, the formal announcement of Apple’s new payment process, Apple Pay, was a welcome surprise that I am looking forward to see if it receives widespread adoption. Previous methods of digital payment (e.g. Google Wallet) haven’t really taken off in the US, let alone in the UK, so it will be interesting to see how well received Apple Pay becomes with retailers and banks. By announcing day one involvement with several household brands (including Disney!), with over 200,000 retail stores expected to provide support with the technology, and SDK support, it‘s certainly blasted off with good momentum.

I was particularly interested by the Apple Watch, the ‘one more thing’ presented during the keynote that absolutely everyone expected (for those who listen to rumours). The smartwatch seems very well integrated with iPhone and offers more functionality than the competition, but it’s obviously more expensive, and so far not a word about how it will impact your iPhone’s battery life. We'll have to get our hands on it to get the full picture of how big it is, how it feels on the wrist, the quality of material, etc.

My primary use of an Apple Watch (besides looking even more Apple Fanboy) would be for fitness. I used to have a Jawbone UP on my wrist, which I left for a Fitbit One on my waist. The only thing that I think is missing on those two devices is the heart rate monitor. Apple’s watch brings together the capabilities of a smartwatch with the luxury and finish of an actual wristwatch.

Unless my current activity tracker dies or I become the ‘Star of the Month’, I will probably not buy an Apple Watch, but if you don’t know what to get me for Christmas, then the 42mm Watch Sport, Space Gray Aluminium with Black Sport Band has my preference.


In all honesty, the keynote was quite disappointing for me. All I saw was old Android features, from the NFC implementation to their watch devices. Nothing exciting or game changing. To me Swift stole the limelight months ago and I cannot wait for my first Swift project! Perhaps we are expecting too much from Apple now?

In my opinion, the main attraction of the September Keynote was the Apple Watch. The watch itself does not seem that unique to me as the current Android Wear devices have very similar hardware specs at a lower price. I am mainly interested as it brings a new kind of interface, one that I think will make people more excited in the platform. The features such as “notify a friend” is a welcome feature but came across too much as a “gimmick” when demonstrated, but I think it will help developers gain better ideas in what to do with the platform, and with the integration of the new API ‘WatchKit’, this should make it even easier to develop applications for the platform.

Overall I was pretty impressed with the September Apple Keynote. The iPhone 6 and 6+ looked impressive with some fantastic (and much needed to keep up with current Android specifications) upgrades to various parts of the phone. In particular the new A8 CPU and M8 GPU processors showed some impressive statistics and also the visual demonstration of the new ‘Vain Glory’ game app also seemed to be a big step forward towards making the iPhone a viable and exciting gaming platform. Any improvements to the battery life are always welcome as well, so this was also a big selling point.

I also liked the improvements to the cameras within the phone. The front facing camera had always suffered from being ‘dark’, but improvements have lead to an 81% increase in light exposure through the front lens. Also cinematic stabilization and 1080p HD video recording from the rear camera looked fantastic in the demonstration footage as well.

Although NFC is an already widely adopted standard for contactless payment, the Apple Pay system looked very well thought out and it could easily be seen how, when coupled with its new ‘Tough-ID” mechanism, it will be widely adopted throughout, America, and I would eagerly await its arrival to the UK/Europe.

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