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iPhone 6, Apple Watch features: Android's been there, done that

For those familiar with the Android ecosystem, few of the new features Apple announced today were actually new.

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Credit: Tim Wimborne, Reuters

Except for massive video streaming problems interrupting Apple’s announcement, there really wasn’t anything notable about Apple’s product announcements today. It makes one wonder if smartphone innovation is over, and buying a smartphone is just brand loyalty, like the old pre-import auto industry; he’s a Buick man, he’s a Ford man, he’s an Apple man.

The iPhone 6 design is sleek, but no sleeker than the HTC One M8. It has a larger screen, but almost every Android manufacturer has done that; the list is too long to mention here. A barometric sensor, Samsung has been there and done that. High-speed LTE operating at up to 150 MBS using carrier aggregation, the Samsung Galaxy 5 and HTC One M8, to name two Android phones, already have this. The Galaxy 5 and the M8 both also have fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

See also: First look: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 camera with Pixel Focus and Phase Detection Auto-focus touted by Tim Cook will produce better images for iPhone users. However, the LG G3 has Laser Autofocus, the One M8 has Duo Camera, and the Galaxy S5 has Phase Detection, and all produce better snapshots, some through similar technology and others using different technologies. The iPhone 6 camera mechanism that moves the lens up-and-down and side-to-side may be unique. It wasn’t clear how the mechanism might be employed to improve images. Perhaps the mechanism moves in concert with signals from the gyroscope to reduce handheld jitter. I may have missed the explanation during the interrupted video stream of Apple’s keynote.

Extensions that allow developers to create their own notifications are the most significant feature of iOS 8. Developers needed this improvement to build Apple Watch apps that present iPhone notifications on the watch face. Android incorporated this feature in release 4.2 over a year ago. iOS 8 still has an update advantage over Android. Apple will push the iOS 8 on September 17th to iPhone 4S and 5 models, and iPad version 2 and newer. The fifth-generation iPod Touch will also get iOS 8. Though Android continues to improve, and the KitKat update experience for most consumers was very good, Google depends on carriers to push its Android updates.

The Apple Watch was pre-released to keep pace with the expectations of the Apple Fan Boys and the plethora of Android watches that have been released recently. It’s not available until next year. Apple has a nice physical design, but some of the speculated mockups that appeared in the press before the announcement were much more stylish. The Apple Watch features seem to be a copy of Android Wear. Apple must be banking on its health and fitness app Healthkit going viral to drive sales of this device. With an entry-level price of $349, the Apple Watch is priced $100 above the big-brand Android Wear watches, and two to three times the price of off-brand watches.

If there is one thing that should concern the Android community, it is Apple’s late adoption of NFC. This isn’t new. This one-touch payment feature has been available for two years on Android smartphones. Apple’s plan to use if for payments is a good one. It has a simple method of capturing credit card information using the iPhone 6 camera. And Apple secures the actual credit card number in its data center, storing only a hash on the iPhone 6, making it very secure. If Apple can win consumer acceptance to transfer the 500 million iTunes customers' credit card numbers it has on file, it could become a formidable payments company and demand a piece of the action from Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover through its control of the Secure Element. Apple has a problem, though – Softcard. AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless have created a consortium, originally called ISIS but recently changed to Softcard (for obvious reasons), that already wants a piece of the credit card companies’ fees. These mobile carriers distribute many iPhones, creating a challenge for Apple to negotiate a three-way relationship that appeases the carriers and credit card companies.

For those who live in an Apple bubble, there may have been something new and interesting in today’s keynote. But from outside the bubble, it was a big yawn.

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