There weren’t many surprises on display when Apple took the stage today in Cupertino for its fall device event Tuesday (Sept. 10) — by and large, the world got exactly what had been forecast in the days and even weeks ahead of the event. The phone didn’t fold or come with a stylus.
What did happen was more or less what analysts forecast would happen: The new phones — the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max — rolled out; the Apple Watch Series 5 made it debut; and the world met the latest variation of the iPad and finally got some hard details about Apple long-anticipated streaming service. There were some unanticipated announcements and roll-outs; before yesterday no one on Earth had ever heard the word “slofie” before and as of today it seems to be Twitter's favorite word. Apple also rolled out a new social sharing app called Clips, a first-of-a-kind move by Apple that no one predicted ahead of the event.
Plus, it was an Apple event after all; just because watchers knew what was coming didn’t mean they didn’t have strong opinions about it once it came. However, as the views started to rollout over the wires — it became clear that reactions were decidedly mixed.
The New Phones
As a matter of design — the new iPhone 11 isn’t all that externally different from its predecessors in the iPhone X line — through Apple spent plenty of time discussing all the improvements to the under the hood hardware, camera and battery life as they introduced the device.
The flagship Pro models were referred to by Apple CEO Tim Cook as “the most powerful and most advanced iPhones we have ever built, with a stunning design.”
So indeed, customers were stunned, though the jury is still out as to whether that is in a good way or not. Because while the iPhone 11 looks remarkably similar to the X editions on the surface, from an exterior perspective, two big things are different. The first is that the new phone comes in a host of colors. The second, more noticeable, change is to the camera array. The iPhone 11, features three cameras; the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max feature four (which start with a third rear camera to provide what Cook called the “most sophisticated” experience.
Those additional cameras take up extra space — which leads to a large square bump-out on the back of the phones. Apple mentioned the bump-out during their presentations — noting it was hewn down from a single piece of glass during their presentation on the iPhone 11. However, consumers weren’t sold, and many spent the morning on Twitter complaining that the new camera array looked a bit like someone had attached a cooktop stove to the back of the new iPhone.
“Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave after seeing this iPhone 11 with the cooktop feature,” one Twitter user noted.
Others were a bit more charitable — noting that the additional cameras enhance the ability of the camera to take pictures in low light — along with a host of other upgrades. However, even Twitter users who liked what all the new cameras do — weren’t exactly thrilled with how all the latest cameras look.
“It’s called iPhone 11 and it is indeed ugly. And I’m getting one,” an iPhone 11 “defender” noted on Twitter.
Because without the camera arrays there could be no slofie.
What’s a slofie? So glad you asked
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Most people have probably wished at least once they could enter a room in slow motion — and now, thanks to Apple’s innovative prowess — they can. They can also exit a room in slow motion, or eat a sandwich — the sky is the limit now that slofies exist.
A slofie is a slow-motion selfie and the name is a portmanteau of those two things. The internet had strong, mostly negative, feelings about slofies — with various Twitter users complaining they were already tired seeing slofies everywhere despite not having seen any yet — and many more bemoaning how every tourist attraction on earth is now going to be filled with slofie taking Apple 11 owners.
The naysayers could well come around — it wouldn’t be a first for Apple in the arena of convincing consumers they want something — but the near-universal groans that rang out across social media indicate, at first glance, the general public is somewhat less than enchanted with the concept.
A New, More Affordable Apple
It would likely not be fair to say that Apple has rethought its status as a brand built around premium pricing. The iPhone 11 starts at $699, the iPhone 11 Pro at $999 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max at $1,099 — consistent with the pricing of their previous flagship releases.
However, facing a looming trade war with China and the reality that the best selling model of its last iPhone edition was the lower-priced XR model, Apple, it seems, has made some pricing tweaks for its latest round of products. The iPhone 11, with a dual-camera system, starts at a slightly lower cost than the $749 entry price for the previous year's iPhone XR. In a similar move, Apple Watch’s newest edition (the 5) will carry a top tier price tag — but Apple has also officially lowered the price of the Apple Watch Series 3 to $199.
Apple also found itself in the unusual position of undercutting on price when it comes to its content and game streaming platforms. Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ will each cost $4.99 a month — far below Netflix, Amazon or even Disney+ pricing. It’ll be available in 100 countries at launch, with new shows being added each month.
Reactions were mixed to the streaming announcement. The low price point was popular, with one analyst calling it a “shot over the bow of Disney and Netflix.”
Others were less convinced — pointing out that Apple TV+ will launch with nine original shows and add five more shows in later months. Disney Plus is only $7 a month, will begin with a library of 300 movies and 7,500 show episodes. Netflix, which starts at $9 for the most basic plan, will debut 32 new shows by the time Apple TV Plus comes out on Nov. 1, according to CNET. Apple offerings, though interesting, may be too thin.
Then again, Apple is giving away a free year of subscription with any Apple device purchase — and even if the offering is thin, one addictive show could be all the service needs to get a foothold with customers. So Apple’s announcement, with its lower-than-forecast price point, was enough to send Netflix and Disney’s stock down this afternoon on Wall Street.
Of course, the proof won’t be in the social media commentary after the event, but in the sales data. The new iPhones officially go on sale Sept. 20 and Apple’s streaming services make their debut on Nov. 1 — at which point consumers will get to vote with their wallets.