Quick Analysis: Apple Special Event (Premium)

Apple launched the iPhone 11 family, Apple Watch Series 5, and a new iPad, and revealed its pricing for Apple TV+ and Arcade. There’s a lot to discuss, including some information that Apple didn’t actually reveal during the press event.

First up, kudos to Apple CEO Tim Cook for skipping the usual humblebrag at the beginning of the event: This always gets Apple events off to a bad start, and I appreciated him diving right into the announcements instead.

The first was, of course, the least interesting, and again, credit to Apple for mostly holding its best announcements until the end. We learned that Apple Arcade, the firm’s gaming service, will formally launch on September 19, about ten days from now, and will cost only $4.99 per month. This is smart pricing, as it undercuts other new and coming gaming services, and is exactly what a newcomer to any market should do.  And it’s even smarter when you learn that Arcade’s monthly cost covers up to six family members with Family Sharing.

Apple says it will have over 100 “curated” game titles “in the coming weeks” (so not at launch), which is quite impressive, and it will add new games each month. But the three it chose to demo onstage at the event were mostly unimpressive. (Oddly, a later game demo during the iPhone segment was graphically richer and grittier.) The good news? All Arcade games will be playable offline.

Left unsaid: While Arcade will be available on mobile (iPhone, iPad), desktop (Mac), and TV (Apple TV), the Mac version of the service won’t ship until October, when macOS Catalina arrives.

Overall, I’m not sure what Apple brings to the table here, and it’s unclear whether there is a market for such a service. The right pricing will help, and of course, Apple’s fanbase has shown itself less averse to paying for things than are Android fans, and this has been true of standalone games as well. So Apple may be uniquely positioned to make Arcade work.

Next up was Apple TV+, the second least-interesting announcement of the day. But here again, Apple saved things somewhat by surprising on price (in a good way, a rarity): Like Arcade, Apple TV+ will cost just $4.99 per month. And like Arcade, a TV+ subscription covers up to six family members, making it an even better deal for those who can take advantage of that. Better still, anyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, or iPod touch starting on September 10 will get one year of Apple TV+ for free.

Those things combined should give TV+ the room it needs to establish itself against tier-A players like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, and with Disney+ coming soon, too, and with more and better content, Apple will need all the help it can get. Apple TV+ will launch November 1, just ahead of Disney+, and it will support offline play. But it will also be seriously lacking in content: Apple announced fewer than 10 launch titles, though again it hopes to add more each month. (I think this explains t...

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