Is it a brand? Is it a religion? Is it a cult? With a trending hashtag, and the ability to stream the presentation live (on Safari 5.1.10 or later on OS X of course), Apple had fans on the edge of their seats yesterday. Tim Cook tweeted that he was “psyched backstage”, moments before he went on to reveal the first Apple product created under his leadership: the Apple Watch.
After Cook was whooped and cheered onto stage at the Apple ‘Spring Forward’ event in San Francisco, he started by paying tribute to the latest Apple store to open in West Lake China, the sixth Apple store to open in China in the last six weeks alone. He outlined that the tech giant has aggressive plans to open another 40 branches in the next year, and that 120m customers visited Apple stores in its last quarter.
Apple has a “few more reasons” for customers to visit, including the Apple TV (of which 25m units have been sold so far) set to retail at $69 instead of at the $99 price tag it’s had since the start, so as to more “accessible.” Confirming rumours, Cook announced a collaboration with HBO, otherwise known as ‘HBO Now’, meaning consumers will need a broadband connection and an apple device in order to watch the next season of Game of Thrones. “Apple will reinvent the way you watch TV,” said Cook, “and this is just the beginning.”
Cook went on to talk about the iPhone, which he described as not just “a category, but a benchmark for which other smartphones measure.” Apple recently sold its 700 millionth iPhone and has a customer satisfaction rate of 99% for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus. “These numbers are unheard of” said Cook.
A feature loved amongst iPhone 6 users is Apple Pay (currently only available in the US), which Cook cited has gotten off to an amazing start. Now vending machines take Apple Pay, including 40,000 Coca Cola vending machines in the US, with that number due to increase to 100,000 by the end of the year. “If you’re like me, you’ve stood in front of a vending machine too many times trying to uncrinkle a dollar bill,” said Cook. “Those days are over.”
In the last decade, the Apple Mac has outgrown the industry, and so it challenged itself to take everything learnt from creating iPads and iPhones, and reinvent the notebook. Before long, Apple users will be able to purchase the lightest notebook ever made, weighing no more than 2lb and retailing at a minimum of $1299.
But what everyone was really waiting to hear about, was the Apple Watch, the most personal device Apple has ever created, and what Cook described as “the most advanced timepiece ever created.”
The latest addition to Apple’s product offering will enable iPhone users to receive phone calls and make contactless payments using the watch. With Apple Pay, smartwatch wearers will be able to tap or wave their device over a compatible point-of-sale terminal to buy items.
The Apple Watch can tell you the weather, identify a song with the Shazam app and open a hotel room like a key card. Soon Apple Watch wearing consumers will even be able to hail a taxi with Uber.
The Apple Watch launches 24 April, and will be available to customers in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK and the US. Prices range from $349 (£231) and in excess of $10,000 (£6,626) for timepieces created from gold.
“Apple Watch begins a new chapter in the way we relate to technology and we think our customers are going to love it,” said Apple boss Tim Cook. “We can’t wait for people to start wearing Apple Watch to easily access information that matters, to interact with the world, and to live a better day by being more aware of their daily activity than ever before.”
While there are sceptics around the necessity of the watch, and the notion that it will become a fashion accessory (it’s made more than one appearance in Vogue editions), there is no doubt that Apple fans will form anything but an orderly queue, in the days leading up to the launch.