Apple doesn’t need glitz and glamour when it’s got the goods

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Haters gonna hate, but we’re giving Apple’s latest product revelations a big thumbs up.
Haters gonna hate, but we’re giving Apple’s latest product revelations a big thumbs up.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Wow. That was a big deal. For a mere “s” upgrade, Apple went way above and beyond with today’s big product showcase. Three major product lines have been not just upgraded, but reinvented, and finally there’s a reason to buy the one that has been languishing — the Apple TV, which is now a gaming console as well as an entertainment center.

Maybe I’ve drunk too much Kool-Aid, but I thought this morning’s presentation was one for the history books.

Apple has struggled with its big product events post-Steve Jobs. Following his death in 2011, the events were initially stilted and awkward. Lately, the presentations have become more confident, but have been marred by bad shirts, cheesy jokes and long, rambling guest appearances. Nothing has approached the near-perfect blend of charisma, techno-lust and hyperbole that Jobs so effortless conjured.

But Tim Cook’s Apple is starting to get the post-Jobs format right. The demos are shorter, the bad jokes fewer and, by golly, the technology is just sparkling.

I still miss Steve Jobs’ magnetic charisma — his ability to make even the most mundane feature seem revolutionary — but at today’s event, such showmanship wasn’t necessary.

Jeff Williams, Apple's senior vice president of operations, shows off new versions of Apple Watch coming soon.
Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations, shows off new versions of Apple Watch coming soon.
Photo: Apple

Let the technology speak for itself

The low-key, straightforward presentation by Cook and his deputies served well the spectacular amount of innovation and creativity Apple is bringing to the world.

Indeed, it’s hard to decide what innovation unveiled today will have the most impact on our lives.

Will it be 3D Touch, which adds an entirely new interaction model to the iPhone? Or the bigger iPad Pro, which looks gorgeous and sports a hotrod chip to power it? Or will it be apps coming to the Apple TV, which will bring second-screen interaction to, well, the TV itself?

Or maybe Live Photos, the new tech that automatically captures short video clips every time you fire off a frame with your camera? It might seem like no big deal, but it sounds seamless and I think will be a big hit on home screens everywhere.

Pithy presentations

Apple’s presentations today were informative and mercifully brief.

Take the first Apple Watch demo, a medical app for doctors called AirStrip. We saw a doctor remotely checking on a pregnant woman, who streamed her heartbeat remotely via her Apple Watch and a special cardio strap. Not only could the app collect a detailed and medically accurate cardiogram, it could detect and differentiate the baby’s heartbeat.

My jaw hit the floor.

I’m not a big fan of baseball, but I was similarly impressed by MLB.com At Bat‘s new baseball app for the Apple TV.

The app allows the viewer to become their own director — choosing between games, rewinding plays and calling up stats and other info. It brings what people do now on their second screens, on their iPads and iPhones, to the main screen. It clearly demonstrated how apps will make TV more interactive and less of a lean-back experience.

Siri on the Apple TV also looked smart and useful. Most impressive was, “What did she just say?” and watching Siri rewind the video 15 seconds and add captioning. That’s clever and useful. Maybe it will kill the universal remote forever. (I’m withholding judgment until I test it in the pandemonium of my household.)

On the mobile front, 3D Touch looks like a powerful and profound new interaction model for multitouch devices, and it will clearly change how the iPhone works in important ways. We’ll have to wait until it’s added to the next generation of apps, but it looks as though it’ll make lots of interactions — especially tasks that currently take multiple steps to complete — a lot easier.

And then there’s the incredibly accurate and detailed iPhone camera, which adds the ability to shoot 4K video; the iPod Pro’s huge screen and four-speaker sound system; Wii-like games on the Apple TV; and the iPhone Upgrade Program, which starts at $32 a month and gets you a new device every year (with AppleCare+).

What a bunch of treats.

Apple and Tim Cook have plenty to cheer about.
Apple and Tim Cook have plenty to cheer about.
Photo: Apple

Product theater perfected

Apple and its partners did a fantastic job today of letting all these incredible technological innovations speak for themselves. Like the best Hollywood scriptwriters, they showed us (rather than telling us) how the future will work — and just how awesome it will be with Apple devices in our hands and at our sides.

Some jokers call Cupertino’s fall event “Apple Christmas,” and it is. We’re going to be dropping thousands on new Apple gear this year.

As a producer of near-perfect product theater, Apple remains unmatched. But with products this polished, they almost sell themselves.