• Apple and it's future with the iPhone (and Dinosaurs)

    I've written a couple of articles defending Apple in some of the court cases against Samsung and various other parties. This article is a little different in that it looks at Apple's appeal in the market and how Apple may be losing their innovation edge.

    The problem with the current mobile phone market is the expectations are high and people quickly forget. The day's of the original iPhone are gone and with that comes elevated expectations. The second problem is the phone market is fickle. While people may have an investment in applications, the cost of application is low and is a far higher risk profile in terms of losing customers.

    When Apple released the iPhone it was a game changer. It changed people's perception of the phone market. It changed the momentum away from Nokia and Blackberry who had largely owned the smartphone market. Apple garnered mass public appeal as the innovator in a space that was otherwise stagnant and managed to gain massive market share in a relatively short period of time.

    While Apple has continued to grow, Android is growing faster for the simple reason that there are more products available in more markets. Unlike OSX where the alternatives are downright horrible, Android is acceptable for a lot of people and a viable alternative. As an example, I know of many OSX users who would never shift to Microsoft and yet are happy to have Android tablets and phones on their desk. This should be a major concern for Apple because clearly the phone market has less loyalty than the desktop market.

    In looking at the current market, the one thing is clear…innovation is important or you lose ground and regular innovation is important or you fall behind. Due to the massive volume of Android handset makers, Apple is trying to compete in an slightly unfair market, and the only way for Apple to compete is to continue to up the game because simply being on a par with Android isn't enough. Phone users value different priorities to laptop users. One of my colleagues bought his current Android phone on fairly simple evaluation terms and that was battery life.

    Over the last two years, the one consistency I've noticed with the iPhone is nothing. When I say nothing, I mean nothing revolutionary. Nothing innovative. Nothing new. When I say nothing, I mean nothing the competitors didn't have already. Comparing iOS6 to Android leaves very few gaps and those gaps mean that people have very little reason to choose Apple. Unlike the OSX market, unless you have something impressive to offer, battery life could be a simple enough reason to select another phone. There is a saying (Desiderius Erasmus - Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia) "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king", and whilst not true to the meaning of the quote, we could reference it by saying "In a world of average phones, it doesn't take much to excel". Apple has focussed largely on updating the software and while these software updates are great, the iPhone truly needs something exceptional and marketable to rise above the rest.

    Apple are in a position where the market only expects them to produce a new design every 2 years. Sure they still release a phone annually, but is 2 years and an S model enough to keep a technology spoilt market happy when competitors are releasing new models every 6 months or less? Software updates or minor UI changes are harder to sell than a nice shiny new model because anything older that 1 year is old, whether you throw a faster processor and an S at the end of its name or not.

    In moving forward, I think Apple needs to seriously change their approach to phones if they don't want to drown in the competitive mobile market. They need design innovation to impress consumers and convince them that Apple is still at the top of their game and they need to do it every year, not every second year. Yes, it's a high expectation but that's the nature of the current phone market and if they want to continue to thrive in it, they don't have a choice. They need market leading specs that aren't lower than competitors released 6 months earlier - things like NFC should have been in the iPhone 5 because it's not a big enough innovation to sell the iPhone 5S. I think the market craves iOS updates less than they do technology innovation as can be seen by Android consumers, most of which probably couldn't tell you what operating system their phone has to start with. Whether it's major accessory updates (like Microsoft had with the keypad smart cover) or simple concepts that make people say "wow", it has to be something that's visible because the consumers are no longer satisfied with Passbook as a major device innovation. They expect every phone to be faster with longer battery life and retina is the standard, rather than the outstanding. With those items expected as standard, innovation is in short supply with the iPhone and Apple needs to think faster or they'll find their market going the way of Nokia. As much as the following video is a sad reflection of society, it's also a real reflection of society and one that Apple needs to be aware of to continue with their success.

    And if you're wondering about the reference to Dinosaurs, I suggest you contact @fullltimecasual for an explanation.

    About the author

    Athol Hill is the Practice Lead for Stonebridge Systems , an SAP & OpenText implementation partner specialising in web and content management implementations and strategy.

    He is a certified SAP and Project Management Professional with a large number of implementations spanning the globe including Australasia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe. When he isn't kitesurfing or spending time with his family, Athol writes part time for Mactalk on a range of subjects including iOS/OSX in the workplace, bleeding edge, product reviews and anything Mac. If you have something new and exciting to review, feel free to get in touch. He can be contacted via twitter on @themissionman or email on athol.hill@mactalk.com.au. Opinions noted here are Athol's own and aren't any official policy of position of his employer.
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