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In the real world, Apple’s 2016 updates are very minor indeed

I’m spending some quality time with the new iPhone 7 Plus, iOS 10, macOS Sierra and watchOS 3 before writing anything meaningful about them on this blog, because I want a nice, rounded opinion of the platforms before I either sing their praises or curse their inefficiencies.

In the meantime, something has struck me and I think it’s quite profound.

If you approach each of these new Apple developments with a consumer mindset they are, almost without exception, rather underwhelming. Those who aren’t in the tech bubble will find watchOS a bit faster, iOS 10 slightly easier on the eye (and frustratingly different in certain areas), iPhone 7 identical to its predecessor (bar the weird home button) and macOS Sierra… well… no different at all, to be honest.

This isn’t a complaint, although it is characteristic of software and hardware platforms that are beginning to plateau in terms of groundbreaking functionality. From what I hear, Windows and Android are suffering a similar fate.

I like all of Apple’s updates. They feel more rounded, complete and thoroughly tested (bar certain quirks of iOS 10). The iPhone 7 is a lovely phone. The Watch is now – almost – an ideal fitness companion. iOS 10 is suspiciously Android-like in its widgetry customisation and absence of swipe to unlock, but also exhibits neat machine learning-type functionality that is of genuine use on a daily basis. macOS? Well, it just continues to be the best desktop operating system out there.

But innovative? Courageous*? Nope.

I think the tech industry gets far too bogged down in the complexities of innovation and the role Apple is expected to play in consumer electronics. It’s all too easily forgotten that consumers just want devices that work. On that front, Apple are absolutely nailing it (although I do think they’ve made one or two ham-fisted attempts at change in iOS 10 which will do nothing more than piss off vast swathes of users – more on that soon).

Does this mean we’re now due annual updates that are anything but exciting? Possibly. Is that a bad thing? Possibly not.

Personally, I wish Apple were a little more experimental, like Google. Tim Cook and co. play it relatively safe, which is why the 2016 line-up of software updates and new hardware is simply a continuation of an existing theme. In the real world, they’re just not particularly different, and that may start to prove problematic against more experimental competition.

More detailed thoughts will follow on this year’s releases in due course – I promise.

*Sorry – couldn’t resist.

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