Every Apple event faces a tough challenge. Not so much from Android or other mobile competitors, but from Apple’s past performances. It’s hard to remember how completely new the original iPhone was, but upgrades to an existing technology just don’t have the same impact that the first iPhone announcement did. That doesn’t stop Apple from trying, but the bar was set very high for today’s event in Cupertino.
As one live blogger at the event said, “Secrets are over.” The presentation’s revelations closely mirrored the rumors that filled the tech press ahead of the event. Two new iPhones were introduced: the (not that much) less expensive iPhone 5C, in several predicted colors, and the top of the line iPhone 5S. Nothing was said about the iPad. But the iOS 7 operating system made its public debut, with a few new user features, plus a 64-bit internal architecture that brings the standard for desktop and laptops to mobile devices. A new security technology was also introduced that might revolutionize computer security. Or fall flat.
Goodbye iPhone 5, Hello iPhone 5C and 5S
The first model showcased at the event was the iPhone 5C. Apple gave no hint that the C stands for anything in particular, though an online poll by CNET strongly favored “cheap” over “classy.” Actually, the 5C is not all that cheap, US pricing ranging from $99 (for 16GB) to $199 (32GB) with a two-year carrier contract.
The 5C has a plastic case (Apple prefers to call it “polycarbonate”), the first of its kind for the iVerse, available in gray, yellow, red, blue, and green. CNET’s commentators noted that this case may actually stand up to daily use better than the metal case.
But the biggest and already most controversial unveiling at the Apple event was a major security feature of the iPhone 5S. It is what Apple calls Touch ID: a Home button that recognizes your fingerprint in order to unlock the phone.
Why controversial? Because Touch ID is potentially a revolution, not just for the iPhone or mobility, but for online security in general. Almost everyone hates dealing with passwords. And the people who don’t hate it—mainly security specialists—are endlessly frustrated by users who pick “weak” passwords (such as “Password”).
So if Apple can really do away with the need for passwords it could be just the thing to fix the password problem. But will Touch ID work in practice? And how comfortable will users be with a phone that takes their fingerprints?
iOS 7 Inside
The iPhone 5S, like the 5C, has the same form factor as the original iPhone 5. And both, along with older models from the iPhone 4 up, will run the new iOS 7 operating system.
But the 5S, touted as “the most forward looking phone anyone has ever made,” is clearly intended to showcase the full capabilities of iOS 7. The most notable of these is the 64-bit architecture. This makes fundamental memory addressing much faster, and should be obvious with apps that involve intensive processing, such as games.
Closer to the surface, much was made of camera improvements that claim to make the iPhone 5S perform comparably to a high-end digital camera. This could be an important selling point. As the CNET team pointed out, the camera is the key feature many people point to as a reason to stick with the iPhone.
The new Apple iPhones go on sale September 20.
Image courtesy of Flickr.