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By Michael Gartenberg

Gartenberg: Apple raises the bar

It was a major keynote for Apple. The first one in the new Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus… a more intimate setting than most of the recent iPhone events. The beauty of the setting almost eclipsed the event. Almost. But not quite.

Despite some very detailed leaks, none really told the story of the day. This was easily one of the biggest Apple product launches in recent memory. So let’s get to it.

Apple Watch. A major upgrade—not in form factor, but in function. The star of the show was the LTE Apple Watch. This is really important. It means users, in theory, can now leave their phone behind and stay connected. They can walk around without anything in their pockets and still take phone calls, deal with messages, and stream music—and those are some of the applications that are enabled by this functionality.

Other competitors—Samsung, for one—have tried this on their own watches, but their feature set and usability have come nowhere close to Apple’s. This might be the smartwatch that truly is for the rest of us. This product is really important to Apple. This is a post-post-PC device.

Apple TV. The current Apple TV is a great product, but hardly delivers the vision that I suspect Apple wants to ship. This new model does take Apple’s vision one step further, with support for 4K and HDR. (By the way, those are terms that are not nearly consumer-friendly enough.)

All that high-quality video is great, but until the content kings get fully onboard, Apple TV will be device number two (at best) on our televisions. And even with improved apps and better games, Apple TV is not a game console replacement, either.

Which brings us to the main course….

iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. These are amazing phones. Apple has once again raised the bar in terms what a smartphone is. The new form factor is wonderful, adding support for wireless charging. This really feels beyond what an iPhone 7s would deliver. The new augmented-reality demos blew me away. This is Apple’s vision of AR, and it’s real, it works, and it opens up a whole new level of functionality and fun. That is, if developers step up.

But the star of the show was iPhone X. It’s arguably the most beautiful product ever made by Apple and the jewel in Apple’s crown. The aesthetics must be seen to be appreciated. This is something Apple competitors aren’t even close to. If the iPhone 8 raises the bar, iPhone X raises the bar so high it can’t be seen. This is, quite simply, the best smartphone money can buy.

The screen is beautiful. A seamless piece of glass that users interact with in so many new ways. Face ID takes facial recognition and makes it seamless, becoming invisible in use. The new functionality it enables is groundbreaking. No doubt, this is the device that Steve Jobs envisioned more than then ten years ago. I expect the lines to purchase the iPhone X will exceed what we’ve seen before.

Now to the price. Price points are what they are—and the bottom line is that the iPhone X will be aspirational for many. People may go into a store and see an iPhone X but leave with an 8. But implicit in Apple’s message is that all iPhone X technology will be available for the rest of us… someday soon.

To those who say Apple is no longer in the business of innovation, I’d point them at Tuesday’s event. And then I’d probably quote Phil Schiller: “Can’t innovate, my ass.”

[Michael Gartenberg is an independent analyst, former Apple executive, and Contributing Analyst at Six Colors.]

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