It’s usually around here that I introduce the column and tease the agenda, but since absolutely nothing happened in the gadget world this week, I’m going to take it easy.
Oh, wait — sorry. Apple happened.
Welcome to a special edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a weekly peek at just-announced gadgets. Of course, the big topic is Apple’s iPhone 6 and the company’s first wearable, the Apple Watch.
For dessert, there’s a set of headphones that plug into the Lightning port on iPhones and iPads.
The scores I assign to each item reflect my interest in using them — they shouldn’t be taken as any indicator of quality, since these aren’t reviews.
As I was growing up, watches conveyed a sense of luxury. They were the hallmark of status and wealth to my impressionable mind. Now, watches seem antiquated — they’re a relic from the past, no longer necessary when an accurate clock can be found just about anywhere.
I haven’t worn a watch in years. Whenever I’d like to find out the time, I glance at my iPhone or tap the button on my earphones to ask Siri.
Apple killed the watch for me, and now it’s bringing the form factor back with the scale of marketing heft that’s the stuff of LG’s dreams.
Beyond the relative novelty of the Watch — despite the many, many smartwatches competitors have already released — Apple is attempting to take a completely different tack.
This is a peripheral — a US$349 peripheral that’s useless without an iPhone pairing. Still, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Apple doesn’t sell boatloads of Watches, especially considering the smorgasbord of customization options laid before would-be owners.
It’s an intriguing device, at first glance. Apple surely has mulled for many months how to teach people to use it, since it largely deviates from touchscreen controls in favor of a dial, Siri and basic touch gestures.
The Watch looks sleek, and the display itself offers something apart from other smartwatches, with a fresh design and striking visuals for functions like displaying tweets and other information.
The inclusion of Near Field Communication technology, which enables the new Apple Pay mobile wallet, came as a surprise, since the technology is also in the iPhone 6 — but it will enable owners of the last two generations of iPhones to use Apple Pay as well. That’s a smart tactic when Apple’s trying to rope in as many Apple Pay users as it can.
All of that is before the health and fitness-monitoring aspects of the Watch, which I won’t go into, save to say the option to share your heartbeat rhythm with another Watch owner is possibly the creepiest feature we’ve seen from a tech product since Facebook started snooping on smartphone microphones.
The rule of thumb suggests we should never rush to pick up a piece of new technology in its first iteration. Wait for the second generation and all the kinks will be massaged out. I will, at least for now, not be heeding the advice of the “Hokey Pokey” and putting my left hand inside a watch strap. I’ll temper my excitement for Round 2.
Rating: 4 Out of 5 Mickey Mouse Watch Faces
Apple iPhone 6
If you were playing the Apple Product Announcement Hyperbole Drinking Game during the livestream, you’d likely have passed out within 10 minutes. Such was the volume of exaggeration. The pace at which Apple flew through the iPhone announcement to get to the Watch reveal weighs into that too.
The iPhone 6 comes in two sizes: too big for your hand and way too big for your hand. It’s an iterative release. Despite the whiz-bang of sharper screens and faster processing, I’m holding off until the iPhone 6s (or whatever it’s called).
There are some distinct positives here, especially with the camera and the focus on video capture. Bringing 240 frames-per-second slow motion to the hands of amateur filmmakers everywhere is vastly exciting for an admirer of the moving image.
Rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Larger Sizes
Philips Fidelio M2L
Sticking with this week’s Apple theme, Philips is stepping into the nascent market for headphones with Lighting port connectors. These cans have a digital-to-analog converter built in, and they will apparently pare down noise and crosstalk.
Outside of the Lightning connector and increased audio quality, there’s not much else striking about the headset. There aren’t any controls built in, it seems, and it’s not clear how much of a royal pain they’ll be for anyone who tucks their iPhone into a case or charger pack.
Rating: 2 Out of 5 Lightning Bolts