ONE reason for Apple’s global success is its realisation that it’s no good simply selling your products to everyone; you have to keep selling them.
That’s why, about this time every year, they slightly reinvent the iPhone and iPod, unveiling updated models designed to render the previous ones obsolete. A similar exercise is carried out on the iPad in the spring. The difference between the products is small yet sufficiently desirable to stir envy and unease in a global market that just can’t bear to be seen with last year’s model. Apple didn’t invent the practice – it dates back to the days of putting a different shaped gearstick on the Mini Metro and calling it a GT – but they are better at it than anyone else.
However, you don’t need to break into your holiday savings to benefit from this year’s technology, because along with the hardware comes a new version of the operating system. This year it’s called iOS6 and it’s free if you own some previous iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad models.
iOS6 doesn’t exactly revolutionise a device; it just freshens it with one or two new apps and updates a few others. But its most conspicuous change, a new mapping system, is hardly an upgrade at all. Apple has ended its contractual agreement to put Google Maps on its devices in favour of in-house cartography which is often less detailed and, to my mind, less clear. In particular the new maps lack Google’s useful street view, replacing it with a slow-to-load bird’s eye “flyover” of a few large cities that’s practical only if you’re a bird. On the plus side, you get turn-by-turn satellite navigation for the first time.
Apple’s voice command system, Siri – hailed and ridiculed equally – is another of iOS6’s most visible (or audible) new features, but only for a third-generation iPad. Those with iPad 2s, let alone an iPhone 3 or 4, will find it’s “too old” to be compliant – no matter if it’s only 10 months since you bought it – a sign of how Apple builds in obsolescence.
But if it’s any consolation, talking to Siri is about as interactive as Clint Eastwood’s conversation with a chair. The idea is that you speak to it as if it were human: “Tell my wife I’m running late,” or “Search for information on Sheffield.” But when I asked it: “Who is the leader of the coalition government?” it replied: “I don’t understand, ‘Julio dealer coalman governor’.” Sometimes it’s smarter to be a year behind the times.