How Apple Keeps Surprising Us in Unexpected and Delightful Ways

| Editorial

Apple keeps figuring out how to make our life better with technology in ways that we keep missing or not thinking about. It's an Apple hallmark that we keep forgetting about over and over, then smile when we see it.


When we try to think about what Apple is going to do next, we tend to think about acronyms and high-level technology concepts. There is also the visible influence of the competitors who, not knowing what to do next, roll out bits and pieces of half-baked technology for the sake of specsmanship.

Reviewing coverage of Apple's special media event for the new iPhones, in the areas of Touch ID (fingerprint recognition) and the elimination of "swipe to unlock", the new features of the 5s camera, larger pixels, the image processing techniques to make for better photos, the motion coprocessor for health and fitness tracking, I got the feeling that Apple, behind the scenes, develops pretty good ideas about how to make our smartphone lives better. The company works hard at that.

Apple can do that because engineers live and breathe the technology in their labs every day while the best the rest of use can do is throw around terminology and wonder how, in detail, it can be pressed into service. As a result, Apple's corporate, internal insight is what gets overlooked over and over.

Along the way, the development of that technology is driven by the Apple philosophy, internally instantiated by Jonathan Ive and publicly proclaimed by Tim Cook: It's "Not just rampant technology for technology's sake."

And, from today's presentation:

  • "We don't just pack in feature after feature."
  • "We think deeply about experiences we want to create."

Apple continues to surprise and delight us because it has access to all the engineering and development tools that outsiders seldom think about or have access to. As a result, when Apple conducts these special events, we're left feeling like, "Aha. It's so obvious. This is the way to go forwards."

Then, a year later, the cycle starts all over again with the naysayers claiming that Apple has lost its innovative edge. Maybe, just maybe, next year we'll smile and remember how Apple really operates.


iPhone 5s image via Apple.

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Wondering if an M7 variant that can stand alone (or with a less powerful accompanying CPU) is in the offing for the iWatch.


Larger Pixels? on the camera?

John Martellaro

paikinho: Yes.  1.5 microns. Larger pixels provide a better dynamic range.

Lee Dronick

I would like to have a camera orientation lock. So that I can hold the camera in portrait mode, but take the photo or video in landscape mode.

Anyway there are some nice features in the new iPhone. My wife and I each have an iPhone 4S, we will have to discuss getting news one. There is trade-in value in our old iPhones which helps bring down the cost of the new ones.


Aside from iOS7 and the new iPhones, was anyone else as impressed with the overall presentation as me? I think this was the best post-Steve Apple event by far. I was particularly impressed with what some may not have noticed: their very, very clever use of musical performers.

Apple has music in their DNA, but today saw a focus on three very, very diverse artists both during and after the presentation that very calculatedly would appeal to an extremely broad audience.

Demonstrating Siri, in an obvious appeal to the younger hip crowd, they had Siri bring up Lady GaGa’s Twitter feed, had Siri look her up on the web, then had Siri find her Wikipedia entry.

Demonstrating iTunes Radio, they absolutely blew me away when they created a station for Rush, the Canadian power trio just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and arguably at their most popular since 1980’s Moving Pictures, if not at the peak of their near-40 year career. The bloggers at CNET were freaking out, Apple said creating such a station would be a way to get “a pure dose of awesome,” the audience was cheering like mad, and a Rush fan site has already picked up on it:

So that covered the younger crowd and Rush’s diverse proto-geek/nerd fanbase (of which I am proudly a part). Then they end with an appeal to the artsy crowd with a live performance from Elvis Costello. There is no way, IMHO, that this was not a carefully calculated move to make sure that they were saying, in essence, that Apple and its products are for everyone.


Thanks John.
Found an interesting link explaining it from 2008.


My wife has a 4S and has a locked in price from one of those companies that buys these to resell. The net result is that she is getting a new 5s at no cost. I have the 5 and have a year to go on the contract. Green eyed envy is around the corner. wink


Phones?? Big snore.  No wonder the stock took a hit today. Man, I miss the days of Apple Computer when innovation ruled. Now that I think about it, Apple computer DID die (see Death Knell baloney) replaced by just another consumer electronics company like Sony and Samsung albeit with only a phone, a pod, and a pad.  Wow.


” the new features of the 5s camera, larger pixels, the image processing techniques to make for better photos, “

What? Larger pixels implies less pixels per inch =  less resolution no matter how you slice it. Something fishy here. Less pixels to save battery life?  I guess the Retina display was a huge bust.

Lee Dronick

I don’t think the pixels referenced are display pixies, but larger sensors in the camera. We need someone with more digital camera engineering expertise to pipe in on this.


That would make sense if one was referencing the size of the CCD sensor itself, i.e. if the CCD had larger pixels at same number of pixels then it would light up the screen pixels more powerfully hence brighter.  u’r right, lee.

John Martellaro

CudaBoy.  Think of the giant CCD in a DSLR.  It works because the focal length of the lens is large compared to the size of the CCD pixels.

On the iPhone, if the CCD pixels are 15% larger but the camera focal length is 15% longer, everything is preserved.  Also, this has nothing to do with the LCD display of the Phone.


CudaBoy, here are the years that all the major Apple products were introduced:

Apple II 1977, Mac 1984, PowerBook 1991, Newton 1993, iPod 2001, iPhone 2007, iPad 2010

Starting from the Apple II in 1977, that’s 6 new major product categories introduced in a span of roughly 33 years making an average of about 5.5 years between major innovations.  Now if you want to take the 2nd Steve Jobs era only, starting 1997, that’s 3 products in 13 years or average 4.33 years interval.  A faster clip but that still means Apple isn’t due until next year.  So where is this mythical Apple you’re talking about that is all rapid-fire, unceasing, make-your-head-spin innovation?


Precisely, John. What wasn’t clear was what pixels were being referenced in the body of your article - display or CCD.  As we all know the number of pixels has nothing to do with the QUALITY of the sensor, or the lens that focuses onto the CCD - example: I have an ancient 2MP Nikon Coolpix that takes better, more accurate 2MP shots than my Kodak 14 MP job. Thankfully Apple’s imaging sensors are pretty good, same same the lenses. Actually, I wish Apple would make a smart camera !!  40MP+ - a Go Pro with the Apple voodoo and bluetooth connect to iPads, iPhones AppleTV and the cloud. Screw the watch, the watch just sounds like a dumb idea. What’s next. Apple iSpats?


Don’t feed the trolls!!


<< So where is this mythical Apple you’re talking about that is all rapid-fire, unceasing, make-your-head-spin innovation? >>
Whoever said that?? 
You missed the part where I said I missed Apple Computer - not Apple Inc. that Toy co. with the same old 3 products.
And further, in the history of Apple Computing you’ve missed a LOT of innovation, it’s not about “new product categories”  example-  the switch to PPC from Motorola 68xxx was MAJOR as OS 6 thru 9 ruled. You missed USB, Firewire. You missed the B/W G3, then you missed the revolutionary iMac introduction; OS X, and lastly you ignored the switch to Intel Macs
There is the whole 4k revolution in display and movie cams, future smart screens, 3D w/o glasses, holographic displays, on and on.  How about a new architecture for the macs? Why same old SCSI with ancient BSD software kernel? There is more potential for “headspinning” new tech in the Mac - not the toys. In fact Apple brags about indifference to addition of features on the toys? Bwuhaaa!!!


...and don’t Clone the Drones


Well then CudaBot let’s count retina, thunderbolt, lightning, macbook air, 64-bit ARM, the new MacPro, and a whole lot of feature upgrades and form factor changes to existing product categories since that’s what qualifies as major innovation for you.

Yes I fed the troll.  Sorry. I’m done though.


I like it when the drones get upset and have to resort to name calling. (you see what I did there?)
  Again, who said “major innovation”?  It’s innovation = more than can be said about the three toys you guys keep harping on. Roughly 70% of the mobile market uses Android over iOS, yet I’m a troll. I used to get called a troll for suggesting that Apple make a small tablet, and make an inexpensive iPhone…. but guess what happened, clones? 
Til then, call me a Troll all you want but I joined this site years before any of you to give my honest opinion about all things Apple. If you don’t agree, fine but name calling? Pretty weak.


Cudaboy: You said “Roughly 70% of the mobile market uses Android over iOS, yet I’m a troll.”. Here’s what you are missing: There is mobile phone market, there is smartphone market, there is high-end phone market. The mobile phone market hasn’t changed much, you have people buying cheap, or middle-of-the-road, or expensive phones. Apple’s initial target was to get 1% of that market. Last count they had 7.2%, and Apple’s market share in the market has been growing year after year.

In the smartphone market, there has been a dramatic change. Four years ago, $400 phones weren’t smartphones. Now they are. Three years ago, $300 phones weren’t smartphones. Now they are. Last year, $100 phones weren’t smartphones. Now they are. More and more of the cheaper phones in the market are now called “smartphones”. Since Apple sells high-end phones, it’s share in a market that used to be only high-end phone but now includes cheaper and cheaper phone is dropping, but Apple isn’t actually affected by this in any way. In the high-end market, Apple’s share is as high as ever.

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