4 random tidbits from the iPhone 11 Apple Event.
- From Schmoes to Pros
- My camera has an iPhone on it
- The Sequel: Siri & AR Strike Back
- Tim Cook butchered Cantonese, and it’s our fault
1. From Schmoes to Pros
Apple pulled a Jedi-mindtrick on all of us with the new naming convention of iPhone. Before iPhone 11, Apple used to have this naming tiers:
- The flagship models (iPhone XS, iPhone 7, etc)
- The size variants of the flagship models (iPhone XS Max, iPhone 7 Plus, etc)
- An “affordable” or “take down” version of the flagship (iPhone 5c, iPhone XR).
This year, the structure changed. It has the Flaghips model (iPhone 11), the Pro version of the flagship (iPhone 11 Pro), and the size variant (iPhone 11 Pro Max).
This is a smart mind trick. I don’t feel as great having the cheaper version of anything. I feel more awesome if I can afford the better version of anything.
“Oh, you bought a Porsche convertible! Oh, it’s a boxster (US$60,000+). Ok.”
“Oh, you bought a Porsche convertible! Oh, it’s 911 Speedster (US$270,000+), WOW!”
The “cheaper” option is now the flagship model (iPhone 11). There is a difference between owning the flagship model versus owning the cheaper version. There is a difference between signalling ourselves as mortals versus signaling cheapness and frugalness. It is okay to not be a pro and be a schmo. It is less okay to not be a schmo and be less than a schmo.
Even though you might say “This doesn’t bother me!”, there are many of us mere mortals who do have to wrestle with this silly yet fundamental traits of the homo sapient species. This simple change in the naming structure will likely remove the angst from choosing among the newest iPhone models for many people. Smart (and manipulative)!
2. My camera has an iPhone on it.
iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max now have 3 cameras. It’s not a first in the industry. There are many smartphones out there that have 3 or more cameras. What’s cool is how they work together. Apple spent a boatload of time talking about how the three cameras would work as a system, how they were color-calibrated at the factory level, and how a user could move around the different cameras on the fly. In one demo, they even showed an app that would allow you to use all four cameras (including the selfie camera) simultaneously! Yea I won’t ever need to do that but I am sure some pros do.
It is an amazing thing to recognise that the three camera system is like having three different cameras without having to pull them out individually.
In both photo and video mode, you just need to scroll, and you will get to switch among the “three cameras”. Most of us probably don’t really care much about all the dark magic and innovations behind crafting the software and hardware to get all three cameras to work together magically. Yet, it is undeniable that the folks at Apple who worked on the cameras are true geeks/craftsman. You have to recognise their commitment to their craft. They are similar to owners of those one-person coffee shops, or those crazy sourdough bakers, who would spend years to perfect their cup of coffee and their 13 year old sourdough starter, even though most of their customers/us could never really tell the difference.
3. The Sequel: Siri & AR Strike Back
There were two characters in the Apple Saga that weren’t mentioned AT ALL during this keynote: Siri, and AR. At the same time, a new mysterious character briefly showed up on the big screen, and we had no idea who it was: the U1 chip. If this happens in any movies, red flags, rumours and speculations will surely be rampant. Something is up! I believe this is the case here with Apple as well.
Let’s quickly put the bread crumbs together:
- The HomePod has been out for a while now.
- Siri Shortcuts will get major upgrades with iOS13.
- AR has been touted as the future, or as Tim Cook has repeatedly been bull on AR: https://www.techradar.com/news/apples-tim-cook-ar-has-the-ability-to-amplify-human-performance
- The groundworks for AR has been laid- ARKit, AR demos of Apple’s new products (the Apple Watch, the new Mac Pro, etc), etc.
One possibility is that Apple has given up on them. That’s highly unlikely when we survey the breadcrumbs. Or Apple has nothing new to mention. Good. That means something will have to come soon. Regardless, for Apple to NOT talk about these at all, is very abnormal, and hence intriguing.
Then comes the U1 chip. There is some information about this on Apple.com and online. In summary, it is a chip that would allow Apple products to better sense its surroundings, and to send signals to other Apple products, in proximity, and potentially over the cloud. This could help all the devices to understand what kind of space they are in. In fact, the accuracy of this mapping, according to some studies, could be within 3cm. What this means is, if I accidentally drop one of my two iPhone 11(s) into the back of my sofa, my other iPhone would technically be able to pinpoint the exact location of it, with a potential variance of only 3cm. 3cm is roughly the diameter of a coin.
This is how it was described on apple.com:
“The new Apple‑designed U1 chip uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness — allowing iPhone 11 Pro to precisely locate other U1‑equipped Apple devices. It’s like adding another sense to iPhone, and it’s going to lead to amazing new capabilities.
With U1 and iOS 13, you can point your iPhone toward someone else’s, and AirDrop will prioritize that device so you can share files faster.4 And that’s just the beginning.”
Okay. So what do we have here? Siri and AR were strangely missing in the event, and then a new chip that could dramatically increase iPhone’s ability to know its surrounding and communicate with each other. What does this mean? What is Apple up to?
I suspect another event is coming. Apple tends not to ship “chipsets” but feature sets. Apple didn’t just launch phone with a NFC chip, it launched the feature Apple Pay. Apple didn’t just launch a phone with a second or third camera, it introduced the features portrait mode and deep fusion. Apple is particularly good at translating technological innovations into meaningful and useful tools for us commoners. I am eagerly anticipating.
4. Tim Cook butchered Cantonese, and it’s our fault
Lastly, Stan Ng was introduced to the state to talk about the new Apple Watch. When Tim Cook introduced him, he said, “Stan INK!”
Ng, is a Cantonese last name: 吳. In mandarin, it is pronounced “WU”. In Cantonese, it is pronounced as …. OK, I can’t find a way to type the sound of it. It is a sound that does not exist in the English language.
One summer, I went to the UK for a summer camp. One day, a bunch of Italian girls ran up to us, giggling. The teenager me was very excited. Beyond excited actually. I have never met, seen or interacted with an Italian, let alone an Italian girl. I digress, sorry.
She asked, “Hello! Are you from Hong Kong?”
“Yes.” (Too nervous)
“Oh we love Hong Kong! Can you teach me something?”
“Yes.” (Too nervous, started to over-imagine)
“Can you say the numbers in Cantonese for us?”
“Ok… Yat yee saam say ngggg”
They bursted into laughter, and walked away. I stalled for about a minute, then I realized I was merely a clown to them, and all hopes of anything more that that were just my own sad imaginations.
Oh, this is how Ng is pronounced.