September 13, 2017

Apple’s latest launches – bolt from the blue or hype?

Apple's new iPhone

Notwithstanding Craig Federighi’s embarrassment, when a new iPhone failed to unlock, Apple’s new facial recognition ID software is sure to be a hit.

It may not have looked that way – when Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering swiped the phone and it failed to recognize his face and unlock the iPhone – but Apple’s new facial recognition software is the way of the future. It is not, however, an entirely original feature. The new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has the same feature.

Where Apple may have an advantage however, over their South Korean rivals, is in the level of security the iPhone offers. Because a web developer called Mel Tajon has discovered a flaw in the Samsung Note 8’s security. He was able to unlock the phone with a picture of himself on another Note 8. He claims that he was also able to unlock the phone with low quality pictures like you would find on Facebook or Instagram. This would mean that it is very easy to bypass the phone’s security and unlock someone else’s phone.

Of course, you don’t have to enable facial recognition on the Note 8. There are other ways to unlock the phone, such as an iris scan, fingerprint or the old-fashioned passcode. These alternatives might appear to make it more flexible than the iPhone X. However, the fact that the easy-to-use facial recognition system is insecure, could put Samsung at a disadvantage, compared to Apple, in the head-to-head battle for sales.

On the other hand, Apple has not escaped the pejorative epithet of “underwhelming” in reference to its much-touted Augmented Reality for the new iPhone (X, 8 plus and 8). This was supposed to be the year of AR for Apple. But all Apple is really offering is software support no new hardware innovations. This means in effect, the ability to superimpose virtual images over real ones on the screen of a hand-held phone. That’s hardly an innovation. Hollywood has been superimposing animated images on screens for the last 60 years (Ten Commandments, Mary Poppins) and that’s in big, cinematic widescreen format – as opposed to a titchy little 5-inch phone screen!

Of course, one can argue that the Apple AR works in real time. But as long as it’s limited to a hand-held screen, it’s going to be seen as decidedly inferior to a worn device. In that sense Microsoft with its Hololens and Google with Google Glass are still the major players – notwithstanding Apple’s inroads in the software aspect of VR.

Apple has, however, struck a major blow by launching a new Apple Watch which has built-in cellular, so that it can be used as a mini smartphone without being tethered to an iPhone. Back in the middle of August, we wrote about rumors of such a product. But now it’s official. Basically, it’s a very small iPhone that you were on your wrist. It can support many of the iPhone apps, plus some health apps that work especially well with an item worn on the wrist. It can even co-exist with your iPhone, having the same number, yet being able to operate on its own, without the phone being nearby.

One of the best features of the Apple phone is the heart monitor. This monitor can not only track your heart rate, it can compare your heart rate at rest to your exercise heart rate and also how quickly your heart rate returns to the rest rate after you have been exercising (this is an important metric of health).

The new iPhones and the Apple Watch can all be charged wirelessly just by being placed its forthcoming AirPower charging mat. And you can charge more than one device at the same time.

However, notwithstanding the launch of five new products – we’ll cover the Apple TV another time – Apple shares were down 4%. Clearly the stock market – unlike its consumer counterpart – is not easily impressed.

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