Another day, another ho-hum announcement from Apple

apple augmented reality tim cook
The new Apple iPad Pro and iPhone SE announced at an Apple three-ring circus-event on Monday sound like solid products, and both are likely to sell in the tens of millions – a success by any measure. So why is everyone so meh about Apple?

Hands-on reports and analysis published across the Web following Tim Cook’s big unveiling reveal a pretty consistent theme. The experts have spoken. And they aren’t saying “insanely great.”

They’re saying, “boring.”

“The Apple iPhone SE event showed that…(yawn)…the future is…zzzzzzzzz,” wrote Chris O’Brien at VentureBeat. “You know you’re at an Apple event when the audience applauds raucously after the person on stage announces…woven nylon watch bands.”

They’re great. No, really

Reviewers from fan sites and tech hubs alike struggled with wording in their brief, hands-on encounters with the new products. Although the new iPad and iPhone are guaranteed to sell millions of units, they are largely somewhat improved versions of exactly what the company already makes and sells.

MacWorld’s Jason Snell seemed nonplussed by the new phone, for example: “The iPhone SE comes in the Rose Gold color option never offered on the iPhone 5S, but otherwise these two phones are identical cousins. If you upgraded your iPhone 5S to the same color iPhone SE, nobody but the most attentive Apple aficionado would ever know.” He called it “2012 all over again.”

The Apple iPhone SE event showed that…(yawn)…the future is…zzzzzzzzz.

The new iPad? Reviews are decidedly meh. Yes, it’s smaller, meaning the keyboard is cramped. There’s a new hump to cover a bigger camera. The components are upgraded. Yawn. Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham offered this backhanded compliment: “They might not be ‘exciting,’ but they both seem like great upgrades.”

In an article titled “Apple Watch is now $299 and still not worth it,” Gizmodo’s Michael Nunez is more clearly disappointed. “Unfortunately, the geniuses at Apple have not found a way to add any meaningful updates to the overpriced wearable device. In a rather desperate attempt to gain some attention, the company (briefly) announced several new nylon watch bands (yay!) and a small reduction in price.”

Engadget released a video summing up various editors’ opinions on the new devices. Listen closely. You can almost hear them hemming and hawing.

“I think all the devices look pretty good – maybe they’re not for everybody necessarily,” noted Nathan Ingraham.

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“I wouldn’t go so far as to say I dislike this about Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad Pro … I just am not clear on Apple’s messaging,” said Dana Wollman.

“I’m not sure what the market is for this new iPad Pro,” said Devindra Hardawar.

Richard Windsor, an analyst with Radio Free Mobile, summed it up as a small event to refresh the older end of its offering.

‘This was a housekeeping event for Apple where it updated parts of its offering that were a little tired as well as picking up a few loose ends. It was not an event that will have everyone scurrying off to their spreadsheets to increase their estimates. Consequently, the main issue that besets Apple remains its lack of growth.”

So wait, that’s it?

Overall, it wasn’t exactly the exhilarated response you might expect when the most important company in the world releases new versions of its most important products.

I detect an undercurrent of ‘That’s it?’ in the collective response to today’s event.

“I detect an undercurrent of ‘That’s it?’ in the collective response to today’s event, but I’m not sure what Apple could have done differently,” wrote Apple defender John Gruber at his blog, Daring Fireball. Gruber argued that the event was held in a smaller location as Apple’s way of mitigating expectations; because of the location, we shouldn’t expect to be dazzled by the new products. Wait, what? Why hold an event if the company holding it thinks the products don’t merit an event?

That’s not me talking, of course, that’s Mashable Editor at Large Lance Ulanoff:

“It is only with the distance of a day that you can see each event for what it is. Sometimes you realize that the products Apple unveiled and announcements it made are even bigger than you originally thought. You may even discover some critical thing you missed. Other times, you realize that, overall, this was not that big of a deal. Monday’s launch falls into the latter camp.”

And the actual products, Lance? “These devices are, for the most part, rehashes of previous innovations.”

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Sure, many people took this as yet another occasion to praise Apple, and there were a few gems hidden in the hardware. Re/Code’s Ina Fried found the one true improvement hiding in the announcements, a technology in the iPad: a way to mimic SIM cards that will let customers choose from carriers when travelling abroad.

“The new iPad packs both the built-in electronic equivalent of a SIM card as well as a traditional card slot that consumers can use to add additional carrier options beyond those supported by Apple,” she wrote. “Of course, it’s worth remembering that not all iPads are capable of connecting to cellphone networks. Apple charges an extra $130 for cellular versions of the iPad, compared to the Wi-Fi-only models,” she added.

Reality, finally without distortion

In his wonderful biography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson writes about the incredibly powerful effect of being in Steve Jobs’ presence, which transformed reality — and helped turn ordinary press events into memorable ones.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I dislike … Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

“The best way to describe the situation is a term from Star Trek,” explained Andy Hertzfeld, who was on the original Mac development team back in the 80s. “Steve has a reality distortion field…in his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.”

That helped propel earlier products, and the halo effect of Apple events has largely continued following the death of Jobs. But is that field finally shutting off? Even The Verge, which has been lambasted as iVerge for what is perceived as a pro-Apple slant in its coverage, picked up on the blasé.

In his hands-on review of the device, for example, Dieter Bohn really couldn’t find anything of interest to talk about.

“Well, it’s a small phone,” he begins. “Apart from the new rose gold color, it’s almost completely indistinguishable from the iPhone 5 or (now-discontinued) 5S…. there’s not much more to say: this looks like an iPhone — and people who want that smaller size are going to really like it.”

Really selling it, huh?

The Verge has made efforts recently to distance itself from that iVerge moniker; in December, Nick Statt wrote an essay describing Apple’s recent design efforts as “unapologetically bad.” He described a new battery case from Apple as “another misfire from the company often lauded for its revelatory design and just the latest instance in a series of confounding Apple hardware decisions.”

The event was also notable for what wasn’t present, wrote Digital Trends computing editor Matt Smith. Is Apple giving up on the Mac?

“Another event has passed, and the Mac continues to be ignored. No one was expecting to see anything new today, but that’s the point. Apple’s Macs — the MacBook Air and Pro, in particular — are becoming outdated, bloated, overpriced machines, and it’s a damned shame.”

In the end, reviews will laud the new products, as always. We gave the iPhone 6S an Editors’ Choice, and customers will likely flock to the iPhone SE. Let’s give Engadget’s Dana Wollman the last word:

“I’m not going to pretend this is as important as the U.S. restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba … Apple announced some things. It was a busy day. We survived. We will review the things. You will probably like the things. You will probably buy the things. And then we’ll do it again in June.”

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

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