10th September 2014

Apple Pay, Apple Watch, & iPhone 6 – our impressions & expectations for the industry

Ok, so Apple's product launches have almost become self parody (Apple event drinking game: take a shot every time someone says the words 'intuitive' or 'beautiful'), BUT beyond the hype and hyperbole, Cupertino regularly sets the UX and UI agendas across the digital media industry. So, with two new iPhones, a new smartwatch, and a long-awaited epayments system all announced yesterday, we sat down to discuss our professional (and sometimes unprofessional) impressions and expectations of Apple's latest offerings.

Before we get into that, here's a very brief rundown of what Apple announced,

iPhone 6 Apple's latest iPhone comes in two flavours, 5.5" and 4.7", both of which are larger than the current generation 4 inchers. With this release Apple would appear to be abandoning its initial iPhone design principles, which were based on the concept that the user should be able to operate the device with one hand. The new Phablet iPhone is nearly 40% larger than the iPhone 5 and comes with significant upgrades to the processor speed and performance.

Apple's selling point: bigger is better.

Apple Watch We've been expecting this for some time. Functionally, Apple's iWatch gives you what you'd expect from a smartwatch, but with a significantly different interface to the competitors. The device is predominately controlled through the 'digital crown', which is similar to a turn dial you'd find on a regular watch. Sensors on the rear of the device measure heart rate and physical activity.

Apple's selling point: the fashionista's fitness tracker.

Apple Pay Apple Pay is the company's new physical and digital payment platform. Like Google Wallet, Apple Pay will use NFC to process payments in physical locations. Users will upload their credit and debit card details to Apple, and will be able to select the relevant card when making a payment.

Apple's selling point: secure and fast.

Brian Harron, Lead Content Strategist

Brian Herron

Apple Watch We’re about to see a whole lot of feature comparisons with existing wearables, which one has better specs, is it horrible looking or not. It’s probably wrong to think about the Apple Watch in these terms. In fact, just forget it’s a watch.

If the iPad is for long engagement a few times a day, the phone for short communication and consumption many times a day, can Apple position the Apple Watch as the device for hundreds of micro-communications a day? That depends – I didn’t hear a whisper about battery life, did you?

Apple’s thinking on this seems to go far, far, far deeper than any other wearable manufacturer. It does no one thing that is extraordinarily novel (if you were waiting for the killer app, keep waiting) but maybe it’s the sheer volume of things that could do that will make it worthwhile. It’s a platform for people to create uses for. Cook’s asides during the conference were revealing: he’s controlling his TV with it; it’s being used as a walkie talkie.

These minor use-cases add up, over time.

I’m not sure that they add up over my vintage Tissot, though.

iPhone 6 I’m not sha-wing-ing over this one. Few surprises, but it seems like a great update to a great phone. I’d love a return (sapphire glass this time) to the 4/4s design. Still more excited about iOS 8 than this.

Apple Pay FINALLY. That’s Apple’s stock price secured for another decade.

Laurence Veale, Head of UX

Apple Pay Maybe it's a uniquely American thing, where they have lots of credit cards, but here's my take;

I'll still need my card for where mobile payments aren't supported (for what it's worth I think it can be used anywhere where contactless is already present so it's just replacing the card with my phone) and given that, how much better is it than taking my card out?

Would Starbucks have been as successful it focused on the interaction without the loyalty?

Randall Snare, Head of Content Strategy

Randall Snare

Apple Watch As a consumer whore, I'm pretty excited about the watch. I want it for no reason. I think what's most interesting about it is that they've mostly replaced touchscreen interactions with single button interactions. It's like language interpretation, but with movement - for e.g. pinching on a touch screen is twisting of the button.

I'm not sure if it will work, because a lot of touch interactions happened through use: people did it so we designed it (ever seen a toddler use your tablet better than you ever could?). Bottom line is, it's cool. Like snap bracelets (Piers, you won't get this because of your persistent youth).

Apple Pay I hate cash. Anything that lets me buy things without it is awesome. And the security can't be worse than current online payments or even credit cards tills. But also, there are so many mobile payment systems, and it almost doesn't matter how they're designed: it matters if the market accepts them. We need a universal thingamabob and if anyone can do that, it's Apple.

Ciáran Harris, Director of Innovati Apple Pay Could be cool. But I get the sinking "visual voicemail" feeling that it'll get rolled out in US, perhaps a handful of big European countries. I can't see local Irish banks investing any money into rolling this out.

Apple Watch Mixed reaction - a dash of desire, with a healthy dollop of "will it really be that good?" Lots of unknowns here till it goes through FCC testing and real specs start emerging. Bottom line, I don't want to have to plug my watch in every night. What would be cool - to use the digital crown to mechanically wind it up & charge it - imagine that - a watch you wind up, how futuristic...

Apple Watch touch

Paul Donnan, Product Manager Paul DonnaniPhone 6 The screen-size changes seem to be trend-following rather than trend-setting. There were no surprises at all, simply another incremental release. Zero 'want' factor for me, despite my official Apple Fanboi status.

Apple Watch Horrendous looks aside, this device will live or die based on how unmeditated the interactions can be. Looking at a watch is an impulsive gesture with an immediate, easily digested response. If the Apple Watch can deliver a similar experience for new interactions without intervention (e.g. automatically tell you the next bus & time at the bus stop you're standing at) then it will become as ubiquitous and essential as timepieces of old. However, nothing from the keynote really suggested this, in fact it seems possibly even less capable than the newest Samsung devices and merely a second screen for your iPhone. I remain hopefully pessimistic.

Apple Pay I will get excited when I have it in writing that it will work in Ireland.

Conor Luddy, Front-end Developer

Conor Luddy

iPhone 6 Never owned one, but I've just upgraded to a nice waterproof phone with a 1080 x 1920 pixel, 5.2 inch, 424ppi LCD screen. It has a 20MP camera and can record 4K video, and the battery lasts about 3 days... That's fairly standard for an Android phone these days, which is why I don't bother with iPhone.

Apple Watch I don't wear one. If I did it would be one of those nice chunky metal looking ones. If I had an Apple one I'd always be hitting it off of stuff. I'd be interested in seeing what apps people make for it though.

Apple Pay If I had an iPhone and this was a thing in Ireland... sure, why not? But I have a very slim card device in my wallet already that lets me pay for things with a swipe. Sarcasm aside though it's always good to see evolution in the world of payments, forcing others to keep up.

Piers Scott, Content Strategist

CarPlay? I was genuinely surprised by how unsurprised I was by it. I really wanted to see something interesting relating to Apple CarPlay; smartwatches and bigger phones seem like a distraction from the next major UX frontier – in-car UIs.

Apple Pay I was hoping to see an epayments solution but I was expecting this to focus on iBeacon rather than NFC. I can't see why Apple wouldn't combine iBeacon's location analytics with user's spending habits in one service. The NFC announcement is...interesting. Google's own experiments with the technology for mobile payments haven't exactly been hugely successful, and I'm doubtful that this will give epayments the boost it needs (at least until NFC is available in all Apple devices). The problem for merchants is that this is yet another box they need at the till, and as Laurence says, Starbucks' success with its Square-powered epayments system came chiefly from the integration of its loyalty card and app.

Apple Watch I keep thinking of smartwatches as tech devices, but Apple's pitching these on style and some utility (fitness tracking). When iPhone users next upgrade, will they spend even more for a watch? And I'm curious (doubtful, I guess) about the long term success of smartwatches – according to the some reports, about 33% of users abandon their wearable devices a few months after purchasing.

And, Randall, I still don't know what snap bracelets are.

And one more thing... Is no one sad at the passing of the iPod Classic?