Today, Steve Jobs presented his State of the Apple keynote address at WWDC. The event began with some interesting data regarding the platform, and culminated in the launch of the iPhone 4. As usual, the event was generally well put together, with only a minor hiccup in the demo process because according to the organizers, 570 WiFi base stations in the room kills connectivity.
In the introduction phase of the keynote, Jobs pointed out some interesting statistics about their App Store. There are currently 225,000 apps, with 15k apps submitted every week, in 30 different languages and 95% are approved within 7 days. In order to address the media’s attention over those apps which are not approved, Jobs pointed out that apps that are not approved are for the following three reasons:
1. It doesn’t function as advertised.
2. The developer uses private APIs.
3. They crash.
According to Jobs, “I just wanted to give you the facts — sometimes when you read some of these articles, you may think other stuff is going on.” The above may be true, but generally the buzz around unapproved apps has to do with Apple’s fear of an app competing with a first party service and their insistence on a G-rated application. Just last week, Apple cross the five billion downloads mark with App Store. With 70% of this revenue going to developers, it was only a few days ago that Apple generated a billion dollars for developers. This is a truly amazing feat.
BlackBerry App World has a long way to go before it can start boasting some of the numbers that Apple has. Some of the major problems is that the average consumer still doesn’t see the BlackBerry as a smartphone capable of running applications. The BlackBerry brand is still viewed as an email device, and it’s going to take some time before we start seeing the type of games, apps and user experience that drives word-of-mouth and results in the average consumer understanding the BlackBerry’s true potential.
In terms of general market share, RIM is doing a great job, and it was awesome to see the company in the number 1 spot on a big slide at an Apple event. According to Nielson, RIM is in first with 35%, iPhone in second with 28%, Windows Mobile in 3rd with 19% and Android in 4th with 9%. Something you have to wonder about is the growth rates. Both Apple and Android have some pretty astounding growth rates, and while RIM is doing a great job of expanding internationally with their carrier partners, the growth rates for the other two smartphones is very significant.
The new iPhone 4 does look very nice. At 9.3mm, the iPhone 4 is incredibly thin compared to the BlackBerry Bold 9700 which is 14mm. The major hardware features include a front-facing camera, microSIM, camera with LED flash, headset, and a second mic for noise cancellation. The device also utilizes a cool feature where the stainless steel band that is around the device serves as an integrated antenna. The device seems very sturdy with a stainless steel frame, but you have to wonder about the glass front and back. There are countless iPhones on the market right now with broken screens, and there didn’t seem to be any mention at WWDC about addressing this issue. One thing BlackBerry users really appreciate is that these devices can take a hit. A BlackBerry’s case may dent but it can be dropped numerous times with no real damage done.
One of the most talked about features at WWDC was the iPhone 4’s retina display. Retina display dramatically increases pixel density to 4 times the iPhone 3Gs. This is important for Apple as it’s fast becoming a mobile gaming and entertainment device. An iPhone 4 user gets 326px per inch and an 800:1 contrast ratio.
Other features mentioned include the A4 processor, microSIM and a much improved battery. It’s hard to say if the marketing materials are accurate, and we’ll only know once this device is on the market and stress tests have been performed. Apple is boasting 7 hours talk time, 300 standby hours, 40 hours of music, 10 hours of video, 10 hours browsing WiFi and 6 hours browsing 3G. Compared to the RIM’s most battery efficient device, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, this is advertised as slightly better. The Bold 9700’s music playback, as tested by BlackBerryCool, was 39 hours. In terms of standby, RIM advertises the Bold at 504 hours, much longer than the iPhone 4. Talk time on the 9700 is billed at 6 hours, 1 hour less than the iPhone 4. Overall, it looks like these two are close, but what’s strange is the the newer Bold, the 9650, does far worse with only 312 hours standby and 18 hours music playback. Why is RIM going backwards?
There are a couple of new hardware features that are going to allow developers to make new and more compelling apps, something RIM really needs to implement. The only new hardware feature we have seen from RIM is a trackpad, but this doesn’t give developers anything new to play with. The iPhone 4 features an integrated gyro, accelerometer, and GPS for 6-axis motion sensing. This is going to make for some pretty awesome games, but not necessarily anything new in the productivity sphere. The front-facing camera, on the other hand, has some incredible implications for apps even outside of the native FaceTime. I’m really interested to see if Apple opens the platform to developers to make video conferencing applications. Skype will be especially great if they take advantage of this new hardware.
Something that was really apparent at WWDC is the fact that increasingly, Apple is moving towards 1st party application development. Both FaceTime and iMovie were developed by Apple, and they’re even charging $4.99 for iMovie. While we at BlackBerryCool have never agreed with RIM’s insistence on developing so many applications internally, they at least make them free for everyone to use. The fact that Apple are charging for iMovie is a little petty and it shows they don’t have faith in the software to significantly improve the product. If iMovie made the iPhone better and would result in more hardware sales, they would have built it as part of the OS. Also, now that Apple are earning revenue on the iMovie application, will they allow developers to create their own video editing suite and sell it on iTunes? What about featuring the product? Apple might want to feature their product more in iTunes in order to boost sales. Either way, Apple are moving more into software development for their own products, which sends the wrong message to developers.
Even though there was a lot mentioned at WWDC that I think is incredible and great for the smartphone industry, the device is still stuck in a touchscreen world. The iPhone is very much an entertainment tool, that is more like a PSP than a PDA. This is great for the average consumer, but I still think anyone serious about productivity, phones that are truly “smart” and improving the quality of life through applications, needs something closer to a BlackBerry. The QWERTY keyboard is still a killer feature for BlackBerry but their users need to see something new and innovative and less of the same old trackpad and small memory.
So what do you think? Anything you saw at WWDC you would like to see from RIM? Are you going to buy an iPhone 4?