Home Tech Apple Berlin IFA: Consumer electronics show leads in to the Apple launch

Berlin IFA: Consumer electronics show leads in to the Apple launch

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 Communications have advanced a long way since 1924 (Photo Mike Evans)
Communications have advanced a long way since 1924 (Photo Mike Evans)

I’m here in Berlin for the IFA—Europe’s answer to CES—to find out what’s happening on the technology scene. The Internationale Funkausstellung is one of the oldest “radio” exhibitions in the world, dating back to 1924 when it was all crystal sets and embryonic public transmissions. Now the show covers the whole gamut of consumer electronics.

It’s odd that this event takes place from September 1 to 7 and will have put up the shutters before the world’s largest influence on consumer technology, Apple, announces the new iPhone. However, I expect to find a lot of anticipation at IFA, including accessories and an emphasis on bluetooth headphones in view of what Apple is likely to announce.

In the meantime, let’s look at September 7 and the much-anticipated iPhone announcement in California. One wit suggested that the choice of date was conclusive proof that the new device will be called the iPhone 7. Not unreasonably, he postulated that otherwise they would have announced it on September 6E.

Rumour mill

Distilling the rumours, it seems more than likely that the new iPhone will look very much like the iPhone 6. A radical re-design is not expected until this time next year. It might have a dual camera (the invitation to the event is infused with bokeh, so this could be a clue) and will almost certainly lose the ancient and very limiting headphone jack in favour of the Lightning connector. There will be howls of protest (not alone, I have several quite expensive sets of phones with jack connectors) but it had to be done. The old jack is large and is a limiting factor on phone thickness; it is also impossible to waterproof. Apple has never been slow to ditch connectors that have passed their shelf life and the old Jack is definitely a lad far gone. On the positive side, leaked packaging indicates that the new phone might come with a set of wireless earbuds and an adaptor for old jack-equipped wired phones.

There will be a faster processor, of course, and more memory. The new 6 Plus is rumoured to offer up to 256GB of storage. I’m not sure this will benefit me because I don’t store that much media on the phone. But it’s worth checking whether or not such a large memory could facilitate a major rethink in usage. Perhaps it is time to carry your world around with you in your pocket.

Oh, and there is supposed to be a blue phone. This will my choice because blue is my favourite colour. So I’ll tick that box.

Hit or miss

There have been many suggestions that the iPhone 7 (we’ll assume that’s what it will be called) will be a flop because it isn’t a radical redesign. I think the opposite. As I’ve said on several occasions over the past year, one of the problems with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is that it is too good. For the first time in eight years, new adopters such as me decided to skip the S model. This has been one of the biggest factors in the seeming decline of iPhone sales over the past months. Too many people are too satisfied with that they’ve got.

Battery life, too, is an important factor in buying decisions. In the past, the iPhone 4 and 5 ranges had problems in long service. After a year the battery life was falling off a cliff and many owners decided that it would be more sensible to buy the S model than pay Apple for a new battery.

But owners of the iPhone 6 (and especially of the 6 Plus with its much larger battery) have managed to solider on for two years. Only now is my 6 Plus beginning to show signs of battery ageing, something that happened previously after around nine months of usage. So, fast forward to September 7 2016 and there is a vast hoard of early 6 and 6 Plus owners who are now panting to update. Not because of the perceived improvements to the iPhone 7 but because it makes sense and because a third year will well and truly knacker the battery.

Despite the customsry naysayers, the iPhone 7 cannot help but be a major success which will fuel Apple’s “holiday season”.

It goes without emphasising, therefore, that I shall be ordering a new iPhone. My only decision is whether to stay with the larger Plus or revert to the smaller format. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I love the smaller size of the 6 and many of my friends are very satisfied with it. It is just sufficiently larger than the old iPhone 5 to make it very usable.

Phablets rule

However, during the past two years I have grown into the “phablet” concept. The Plus is a bit of a pain to fit into the front pocket of a pair of jeans, but the utility is so much better than that of the smaller phones. I see the Plus as a hybrid phone/tablet. When the Plus arrived in the autumn of 2014 I realised I no longer needed to carry around an iPad mini, still less a full-size iPad. The Plus just does it all.

Since then I rashly bought a new iPad Air and smart keyboard, a combination which I like but fail to use to the full. I see little advantage in carrying around the iPad when most of the time I am glued to the screen of the iPhone 6 Plus. In reality, the iPad has been a waste of money—at least for me, I hesitate to make general assumptions for this is a very personal thing.

There’s another good thing: I am not tempted to use the iPad as a camera.

Tuesday’s announcement is therefore a significant moment, not just for iPhone aficionados but for the Apple share price.

What else can we expect? There are hopes of a Mark II Apple Watch. I’ve had the Watch from Day One and I love it. I’m using it for things I didn’t buy it for—primarily health applications and notifications. The Watch apps suck big time and it isn’t even good at telling the time (prodding the screen to get the time is counter-intuitive) but the Watch is addictive. I can honestly say that I have only one regret—that the Watch stops me wearing my wonderful IWC Pilot’s Chronograph. Whether or not I will be minded to upgrade to Watch II is another matter. Tuesday will tell.

The other long-awaited event is an upgrade to the MacBook range. This is now something of a farce, so long have we been waiting for significant improvements. The word is that MacBook announcements will not come on Tuesday but later in October. We are expecting a new range of thinner Pros with a soft function row to mould to the requirements of individual applications. There’s likely to be an upgrade to the Air range (which I thought would die off following the success of the MacBook) and, more than likely, another performance boost for the MacBook (which I currently use as my travel computer).

Travel notebook

At that time, in October, I shall be revising my ideas of the perfect travel laptop. The MacBook fits the bill in almost every respect as far as portability goes; but it is now feeling slow when importing and processing photos (which is what I mainly use it for while on the road). I might have to bite the bullet and put up with the extra weight in return for the faster processing power of a MacBook Pro.

Finally, we will have the announcements of the new versions of iOS—now up to version 10—and the sensible rebranding of OS X to MacOS, appended as is now customary with some new Californian mountain, lake or valley I have never heard of. El Capitan is quite forgettable and I have indeed forgotten the previous geological notable.

It should be a super Tuesday.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. There are quite a few billion reasons why this won’t be the major Apple news in my country next week. The consumer electronics industry is built upon a constant ‘upgrade’ cycle and a lot of people buy into this. A lot of other people are bemused by this and happily use 8 or 10 year old phones. The headphone thing might annoy some customers, so an adaptor will be essential. Yes, this will help the sales of bluetooth headphone sets, which are more than a little over-priced by comparison to wired sets at this stage.

    In truth, I am not excited by or interested in the forthcoming announcement; the tax row is much more interesting and exciting. To me a phone is a utility device and nothing more than that. The ‘messianic’ stage strutting by ICT industry CEOs telling us how their latest device or software is going to enhance our lives (not mentioning their cash piles, of course) is extremely off-putting to anyone with a minimum level of intelligence or education or both.

    If Apple are going to mess around with a further OS to replace El Capitan, could they issue something that is complete and entire and fully tested without using their customers as beta testers? Finally, could they do something to put the ‘vampire’ Photos App back in its box to stop it from popping up every time I try use a new or even re-formatted SD card in Lightroom. A simple request, I would have thought, that should not defeat the software engineers at Apple.

    William

  2. I sort of take a different view regarding ‘stuff’ than Mike…. I buy them and if happy, I will run them into the ground, oblivious to new shiny appearances.

    I really like the size and shape of my iPhone 5, I tried a 6+ and we didn’t get along, I decided to just get used to popping the gig-lamps on when I need to read something in an app.

    However it is now three years old and more or less useless for a day out unless I have the car, so I am waiting to see what will be released before deciding whether it is new batteries or a new iPhone. I suppose there is always the iPhone SE! A really good camera will probably lead me to the 7 though.

    Of course the other Apple story, is at a corporate level… Just like the hapless citizen of the EU, Apple is now beginning to appreciate the unfair and underhanded behaviour of the so-called European Union (the way it behaves mimics the old Soviet Union, but that is another story)….

    … So will the formerly independent nation of Ireland be able to pursue its interests without the meddlesome EU interfering, or will either Apple or Ireland have to consider a move to the new all singing, all dancing independent Britain?

    Either way, the EU is damned. Odd really, in the same way that the EU seems to pick on and eschew Israel when it comes to competition between the tribes, it seems to pick on Apple when it comes to corporate matters…

    Of course it should not be involved in anything, it doesn’t have a democratic mandate.

    • Thanks Stephen. We will, as you know, look after our own independence within the EU. This is a row between the EU and the US and Ireland happens to be in the way. News may not have reached the UK, but Mr Cook has yesterday re-affirmed his commitment to invest in Ireland. He should pay his taxes, though, preferably in the US where the value ultimately accrues.

      William

      • Has something changed William?

        I thought that Mr. Cook believed that there was no tax due, that all agreements between Apple and ROI were serviced as agreed.

        I thought that the ROI was happy with its arrangement with Apple, and was not a little peeved at the antics of the blob.

        As I understand things… along with the usual sense of entitlement from bureaucracy, there is a lack of consistency… The mad rush to create a new superstate has meant that there is a little anomaly… the EU looks at "Europe" (which it is not) as a single entity, corporate tax being due from one single jurisdiction within the EU… Now, it can see a shortage of cash coming from the UK, it wants to have its cake and eat it.

        I must disagree with your contention that Ireland is in some way independent though! That’s a tough one to take seriously :)…

        Still either way, it won’t be long before the EU collapses under the weight of its own contradictions and not a moment too soon.

        Believe me, uncommon though it is, I reckon that Ireland will be thanking the citizens of the UK in the not too distant future for saving it from a fate even worse than direct rule from Westminster.

        There is no doubt that the EU is a moribund concept, since its foundation in the 1950’s the number of independent sovereign nations has nearly doubled… and the remaining 27 ‘member’ nations of the EU will perhaps join them and emerge blinking into the bright beautiful 21st century world.

        …People like to know their boundaries, it makes them feel like they are part of a team, they like to be able to vote for, or (r)eject their rulers and there is no doubt that those rulers would prefer to operate unchallenged as in the EU…

        And finally William, how was the double referendum on ‘Lisbon’, ‘looking after Ireland’s independence’? Surely this was the European corporates looking after themselves?

        • Mike is correct. This is not the place to discuss the success or failure of the ‘European Project’. The only thing that appears moribund, at least temporarily, after this week’s events is TTIP. As well as re-affirming Apple’s commitment to Ireland which, leaving aside tax issues, has been very beneficial to both parties, Mr Cook has talked about Apple ‘repatriating’ its profits which presumably will mean some form of US taxation. If this were to happen it would render a lot of the present discussion nugatory. I am sure that generous R&D allowances would be made which can make Mike look forward to introducing the iPhone 12 which will probably be introduced at about the time that all of this gets resolved.

          Think of poor Samsung coming from outside the EU and the US with the exploding batteries in their latest model. I hope that the iPhone 7 has at least a non incendiary battery.

          William

          • Yes, I was really making a point about Apple and corporatism and the subsequent manner in which the EU handles such relationships.

            I did not not intend to get into the machinations of our governmental system, but it is hard to ignore the elephant insinuating itself across this and every fora.

          • Ah also… What should Apple be doing? Well it should be doing its duty to its shareholders and one of those duties is paying the agreed amount of tax.

            The fact that the EU has created this ‘single market’ means that Apple only has to domicile in one EU member nation in order to comply.

            The aside is that the EU has decided very unusually (not) to change the rules.

  3. My first Apple purchase was the old IIc. This was back in the days when nobody was writing programs for Apple…I thought they were doomed to going out of business. For the following 15 years, it was PC for me. But then I bought my first IPod- a device that seemed ludicrous to me when I viewed the initial ads- and it has been slowly, but surely, a descent into the world of Apple for me and mine. It is kind of funny: on no less than three occasions my daughters, shunning my advice, have gone to the other phone brands; and, ultimately, they have returned to IPhone. I never fail to rub it in………..Foolish children.

    • Brand loyalty and the comfort of being in the Apple womb is an important part of the equation for most users. It’s something that financial analysts and technical commentators offs. Fail to realise. You could say that Android phones and Windows computers sell on price to people who don’t think a great deal about the implications. My experience is exactly in line with yours. People think a Samsung or whatever is better than an iphone. Superficially this could the true, but it is seldom a more satisfactory solution in the long term.

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