Opinion: Sorry Apple, your 'new' products are not 'all-new'
People were already joking ahead of the iPhone event that its media invitation which exclaimed ‘By Innovation Only’ looked increasingly more like it should have read “By Iteration Only.” Funny, but it’s true. There is nothing "all-new" among them as each is merely an iterative update – even the new 10.2-inch iPad.
Let’s take a closer look at the iPhone 11 range. The new entry-level iPhone 11 (from US$699) is the direct sequel to last year’s iPhone Xr which Apple claims is the biggest selling individual smartphone model in the world last year. If you own the iPhone Xr, there is nothing about the iPhone 11 that would compel you to upgrade. Most of its spec sheet, including its underling design, has literally been copied and pasted from last year. The only aspects of it that are new include the second rear camera and the A13 Bionic SoC. Even the ‘Liquid Retina’ display remains exactly the same in every regard -- I can’t think of too many Android phones at even this price point that would try pull that stunt.
The iPhone 11 Pro (from US$999) and the horribly named iPhone 11 Pro Max (from US$1,099) don’t really do an awful lot to justify the ‘Pro’ in their titles either. However, Apple claims the iPhone 11 Pro models offer "Pro cameras", "Pro displays" and "Pro performance". Do they? While the A13 Bionic is undoubtedly impressive, it is exactly the same chip found in the everyday spec iPhone 11. Surely Apple should’ve fitted it with an iPad Pro-like A13X Bionic chip to justify the ‘Pro’ performance tag? That would have really been something. But alas, Apple doesn't even appear to have overclocked it.
As for the ‘Pro’ display, sure it is upgraded and with some impressive performance characteristics, but it continues with the same 60 Hz refresh rate when Android flagships are going to at least 90 Hz. So really, the only feature befitting the ‘Pro’ banner is the new rear triple-camera system. Even then, however, it is still largely playing catch up with the Android competition. There is little that is new or especially compelling about the camera features on offer. It is undoubtedly doing some impressive real-time computational photography trickery, but this is a path that Google blazed last year and which it will undoubtedly improve upon when the Pixel 4 is officially launched next month. Further, the now three-year-old 'Pro' design is arguably the ugliest of three. And there is certainly nothing 'Pro' about the underwhelming 64 GB base storage!
The new Apple Watch Series 5 is here and as per expectations, its design is now into its second year. The only particularly notable feature it brings to the table is an always-on display for the first time. Apple made a short song and dance about this feature when Wear OS or Tizen OS smartwatch users have enjoyed this always-on displays for the past few years. Even the, albeit renamed S5 SoC, appears to be a carry over from last year with the new display accounting for the battery life savings needed to power the always-on capability. There are a couple of new material choices in titanium and ceramic, but we have seen the latter on earlier Watch models. Watch Series 5 is new, but it isn't all new by any stretch.
The new iPad 10.2 could have been an opportunity to introduce a more contemporary design akin to the iPad Pro line. But no; it is merely the iPad Air chassis with a gimped 10.2-inch display fitted to it -- as such, it continues to sport relatively oversized bezels for a 2019 tablet. The by-product of this approach is that Apple has been able to keep the Air’s Smart Connector so that it is also compatible with the Air’s Smart Keyboard. This is possible only because the iPad Air itself is a gimped version of the previous iPad Pro 10.5-inch model. Even its 10.2-inch iPad is fitted with the A10 Fusion chip from three years ago -- understandable for an entry-level model, but don't try to tell me it is 'all-new."
'By Iteration Only' indeed.