Apple has an extensive history of giving keynote addresses, some of which are historical milestones, from the reveal of the Mac in 1984 to the incredibly important moment Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone in 2007. It’s fair to say, Apple has had some of the most important powerpoint (or more likely Apple Keynote) presentations ever. And millions of people will watch these events through the live stream or the recording online. Tech websites will often edit down the hours long presentations to just the important announcements. So, it seems that Apple likes to put on a show, and in many ways they have more in common with a stage play than a presentation. There’s a stage, an audience and an elaborate production including lights, projections and sound, it’s also held in the Steve Jobs Theatre. So why aren’t they reviewed as such…?
The review of Apple’s Special iPhone Event September 2018!
Durration: 1hr 48 mins.
Main Cast: Tim Cook, Jeff Williams, Phil Shiller, Kaiann Drance, Lisa Jackson.
The Steve Jobs Theatre, situated on Apple’s new Apple Park campus in Cupertino California, is a marvel of glass and marble. The clean and stylish atrium is the embodiment of everything Apple stands for; elegant design. We’re treated to a tour through the atrium, gliding down the curved stair case and into the entrance of the theatre itself. The theatre is state of the art, something you would expect at the best theatres in the world, but this is the a tech company. The crowd settles to a video intro, a homage to the Mission Impossible franchise, which sees a women backflipping, diving, and careening across the Apple campus to deliver Tim Cook his presentation clicker. Quite how much importance the clicker has to the audience is debatable, but it was a fun skit and one that was slick and well shot.
As Tim dons the stage, he has a confidence and a swagger that only a person who has overseen their company grow to a billion dollars can have. He’s calm and collected. His performance has certainly improved over the years, he still lacks some of the charisma of his predecessor, but it’s a tough act to follow. Tim introduces the event, updates the audience on the performance of the Apple stores, then he hands over the reins to Jeff Williams, to talk about the Apple Watch.
Jeff, has one of the toughest jobs here, he has to make us care about the Apple Watch. The rise of the Apple Watch was slow and deliberate, but has now seen it become the best selling watch ever. Jeff explains things with a clarity and a passion for the product. He announces a few key features of the new Apple Watch series 4, like a bigger screen, fall detection, and the first over the counter EKG. This section only falters when Ivor J. Benjamin, the chairman of the American Heart Association, takes the stage and slows the pace right down. I see the importance of Benjamin’s input, but it was overly long, a symptom of the keynote overall. Once Benjamin has finished giving his speech Jeff takes the stage again and talk for another 10 minutes, that’s just too long. Jeff does an admiral job, but is bogged down by a unrefined script.
The next section was all about iPhone. Apple had three new iPhones to announce this event; the XS, XS MAX, and the XR. Phil Schiller takes the stage to announce the new hardware and Kaiann Drance to highlight the software improvements. Now, announcing three new iPhone is a tall order and it’s difficult to give them all the time they need, however, at this point we have an hour and ten minutes left of the presentation. This is where things grind to a halt. Phil does his best, explaining the new features of first the iPhone XS and the XS MAX and then the XR, but unlike the Apple Watch before it, the phones are remarkably similar to the previous generation. Spec bumps aside, the only real difference is the introduction of the larger XS MAX, and a cheaper iPhone Xr which uses an LCD screen over an OLED. Kaiann has a great stage presence, but also has the unenviable task of recapping all the software announcements made at Apple’s previous keynote at WWDC. This section didn’t need an hour and 10 minutes. One of Apple’s greatest weaknesses over the past couple of years is their reliance of product demos. These demos slow the pace right down and this year was no exception. Game Developer, Bethesda, showed off Skyrim running on the iPhone, then Nex Team showed off their Machine Learning powered basketball coaching app Homecourt, and finally The Directive Games took the stage to showcase their AR powered arcade games. All in all, the tech demos went on for just under 10 minutes. I’m not saying that having demonstrations of the key technologies of the iPhone isn’t important, I’m just saying that there’s more efficient ways of telling their stories. We’re also treated to a section about the environmental impact of the iPhone which sees a great performance from Lisa Jackson considering the important, but dry, subject.
Finally Tim joins us back on stage to round out the event, recapping everything that had been announced and the other products in Apples lineup. The problem Apple had at this event was mainly in pacing. It was overly long and they became bogged down in the specs. Guest speakers can be great, but three consecutive demos one after the other can get a bit much. The iPhone didn’t need as long as it got on stage and the whole presentation lacked focus. If Apple had made this presentation more succinct, I think it could have been an exciting event, but in its current form it was, unfortunately, quite boring.