Apple unveiled three major products on Tuesday: bigger iPhones, a mobile payment solution and, as widely expected, a smart watch named Apple Watch. When I watched the streaming video of the big event on Apple’s website in the wee hours in Seoul ― by the way, the quality of the streaming was horrific, very un-Apple-ish ― and witnessed the shiny, sleek and stylish gadgets, I felt my Mac instinct get pleasantly stirred up and almost saw my pocket opening in a few months.
Here’s a disclaimer: I’m one of the so-called Apple fanboys. Well, not exactly a boy; I’m a middle-aged Korean man who has collected a host of Mac computers and mobile devices over the years, despite all the hassles and inconveniences.
It’s quite possible that no matter what products Apple launches, I’m likely to view them favorably, at least initially, since they can be added to the growing list of interconnected Apple devices I own.
First, the iPhone 6 comes in two sizes: 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. Since I have the smaller iPhone 5, the new models with a bigger screen and better camera functions are certainly a welcome upgrade. Although I respect the late Steve Jobs, I think his stance on the optimal screen size of a smartphone proved off the mark. Samsung made great strides in the phablet segment with its Note models, and there’s no denying that Apple is now doing some catch-up here.
Second, a mobile payment system, predictably named ApplePay (not iPay), might gain some customers in the U.S., but it’s highly unlikely to secure a foothold in the Korean market, thanks to the morbidly complex regulatory obstacles here. Even one of Apple’s core services, the sale of digital music on iTunes, is not allowed in Korea. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but there’s no sign that things will turn positive on that front, even though President Park Geun-hye has regularly held marathon meetings aimed at removing unnecessary regulations to improve the country’s competitiveness.
Third, the Apple Watch is almost on par with my expectations, and there’s no question that I’ll buy one when it lands in the Korean market, but I’m not fully convinced that I will use it on a daily basis.
It has a nice design, upscale interfaces and some innovative features. Tech pundits tout the smart watch as a new digital fashion accessory fitted with communication, fitness tracking and mobile payment functions.
While the iPad virtually created the tablet computer market after its surprising release in 2010, it remains to be seen whether the Apple Watch will redefine the watch industry, both traditional and digital.
When I watched the unveiling of the Apple Watch by Tim Cook on Tuesday, I did not feel the strong sense of excitement I felt when the iPad was announced by Jobs at an event in January 2010. There were some doubts about the name of the new tablet computer (iSlate vs. iPad), but the new device came as an absolute breakthrough.
The Apple Watch, in contrast, did not generate such conviction in my Apple-specific heart. My somewhat reserved view has to do with practical reasons, and something Jobs himself preached for a long time: simplicity.
I bring my iPhone everywhere, in my hands or in my pockets. I also carry my iPad, a Retina model that replaced the original 2010 version. And I sometimes put my MacBook Air in my backpack, together with a bunch of power adapters and cords, plus an additional battery pack for the power-hungry iPhone. Jobs famously had an almost empty room to simplify his life, but I am now burdened with at least three Apple devices when I’m on the go.
Now Apple wants me to put on a brand-new smart watch, which means I may bring around four mobile devices. Given that Apple did not say a single word about the smart watch’s battery, I guess it might not last superlong, which will push me to wait for the next version.
I also did some experiments with a health-tracking device named Fitbit, but I no longer use it for various reasons, including the simplicity issue. I don’t want to take care of more than three digital devices at the same time. I even decided not to buy the iPad Mini, can you imagine that?
One more thing. In the past five years or so, things have changed a lot in Korea and elsewhere as far as Apple is concerned, but one thing remains the same: Korea did not make it into the first group of countries where the iPhone 6 will be released on Sept. 19.
By Yang Sung-jin
Yang Sung-jin is the national desk editor of The Korea Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. ― Ed.