You may have heard rumors that Apple has jumped the shark. You may have heard that post-Jobs, a downward trajectory was inevitable. That Apple and the smartphone industry in general, have entered a period of stagnation when it comes to innovation.
But the 5S and 5C sold over 9 million units in the opening weekend—generating more revenue than Blackberry will make for selling the entire company. So clearly, rumors of Apple's demise have been clearly exaggerated.
It's true that Android enjoys a larger market share than iPhone overall but therein lies the fundamental difference between the two; Android has focused on an innovative business model that peddles a strong operating system to multiple global partners while Apple focused its innovation on product.
The recent release shows us this has not changed. Because while the 5S and iOS7 have obvious flaws, they also display signs of Apple's plans for the future of mobile.
Except the word mobile is getting a bit played out. It tends to narrow people's thinking to smartphones and tablets when really, Apple's vision is much larger than this. So let's say Apple has big plans for the future of multiplatform computing.
To get a better sense of what it all means, let's look at nine points to ponder about the new iPhone, both pros and cons, and what they might mean for us consumers.
1. Design Delights and Disappointments
If the visual design of iOS 7 is giving you serious eyestrain, you aren't alone. The rumors of a move away from Jobs' beloved Skeuomorphism to a more flat design aesthetic caused a lot of excitement prior to the iOS7 announcement and rightly so. It's about time Apple allowed the look and feel to evolve a bit.
But the reality falls short of expectations in some ways. The morphing color palette for icons and fonts is meant to provide just right level of contrast at all times but often ends up making details very hard to distinguish (e.g., the white fonts that label icons practically melt into the background on lighter colored wallpapers).
On the other hand, there are so many other things that Apple got right this time, from the control center to the simplicity of swiping down to search.
Moreover, it's clear that Apple is looking outside of itself for design inspiration – taking the control center, dynamic wallpaper, and notifications from Android, for example, and the flick-up gesture to close an app from the old Palm OS. While some think this is a sign that Apple's running out of original ideas, I'd argue just the opposite. Looking at outside influences is a sign of a company that's committed to building the best possible products and Apple's willingness to put aside its past hubris in doing so is nothing but a good thing.
2. C is for Cheap (But That's OK)
The 5C may just be a more colorful version of the 5, but $99 for a subsidized, brand-new iPhone 5 isn't so bad! And though many have joked that the "C" stands for cheap, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If Apple ever hoped to compete with Android for consumers on a broader, global basis, a cheaper device was a foregone conclusion. And really, the only thing cheap about this device is the price. It's just candy-colored, plastic-encased iPhone5 but the 5 was, and is, a great smartphone and this will get more Apple devices in more hands so it's a win for Apple and for consumers.
3. Enterprise-Friendly APIs
Now that BYOD is the norm in most corporate cultures, CTOs are struggling with managing corporate information and security across a fleet of devices they don't own and with the new iOS7, Apple has created a suite of tools to help them.
Enterprise-friendly APIs like Single Sign-On using Kerberos, App-Specific VPN Connectivity, Open-In Management, and Content Filters/Application Settings, will make it much, much easier for IT teams to manage corporate security and for employees to improve their workflow.
The goodwill this generates among IT decision makers most likely will, in turn, result in more enterprise orders for Apple, something that would have been unheard of even two years ago. In the recent past, all but the most creative of companies would generally reserve Apple product purchases only for design teams but now, with need for employees to be productive across three screens, Apple is beginning to look like the only logical choice.
At this point, Blackberry can't compete on all three screens, let alone one, Windows has failed to make good on smartphones and tablets, and for all the popularity of Android smartphones, its tablets and Chrome-powered laptops have yet to gain widespread consumer approval.
4. Richer Graphics, Better Camera
The 8MP iSight Camera with its larger pixels and larger aperture will definitely lead to higher quality photos which will lead to users taking more pictures. Even better are the organization features that come with it, allowing photos and videos to be tagged and cataloged according to time and place.
The superior camera features and categorizing are likely to lead to more taking and sharing of photos and video ¬¬¬– with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, etc. It's also likely to lead to more proactive participation in socially oriented campaigns of all kinds since ease of use generally accelerates engagement. Giving people better tools to create content will inevitably, lead to more (and to a certain extent), better content.
5. Touch ID
So first off, it works. It works really, really well. And it's convenient, so there's that. No more remembering those pesky pass codes.
Of course, it's also super creepy, if you believe everything we're hearing these days about major media corporations sharing consumer data with the National Security Agency. Because really, if you're worried about companies getting your personally identifiable data, it doesn't get any more personal than your fingerprint.
But, conspiracy theories aside, Touch ID does pose some potentially beneficial possibilities for consumers and some very lucrative possibilities for marketers. The simple and unhackable (at least as far as anyone knows) fingerprint authentication opens up a whole new world of options for m-commerce.
Right now, you can only pay for apps and unlock your phone but there's simply no way this function won't be expanded to include paying for goods and services of all kinds. M-commerce has been struggling to ramp up but again, ease of use leads to higher engagement – with Touch ID, the worries about security will wane and the frustrations over inputting payment info will disappear. It's effortless and all the fears about theft that have hampered NFC uptake will be a non-issue.
6. The A7 Processor
So far, we know the 64 bit A7 is twice as fast as the A6 and that it was built using the same 28 nanometer manufacturing process as Samsung's wildly popular Galaxy line of devices. And while bigger doesn't always equate to better, in the smartphone world, faster most definitely does.
Speedier processes, more powerful rendering of images, and better overall productivity and performance are the new norm with the native iOS apps in iOS7 already built for 64 bit and third party apps easily recompiled for it. Your apps, especially games, will be faster and eat up less of your battery life. Which, of course will probably lead to users becoming more reliant on apps, downloading them more often and using them more frequently.
Long story short, one of the more interesting possibilities here is that we'll see a stronger trend away from the mobile browser, with more users relying on apps for content discovery and task management.
7. The M7 Chip
The M7 chip, also known as the "motion co-processor" collects movement data from your iPhone accelerometer, compass, and gyroscope, creating all kinds of new possibilities for health and fitness applications. With the M7, your phone is now theoretically capable of offering you many of the personal data collection functions of devices like the Nike Fuelband or the Jawbone Up.
Many have hypothesized that this means the a watch won't be forthcoming but astute observers agree that it's actually a guarantee that the iWatch is in the works. Because for all its slick form factor, a smartphone can't integrate into an active lifestyle in the same seamless way a wristband can. Sure, your phone can track your every step throughout the day but it will take a watch to really integrate tracking into your morning run or your soccer game.
Putting this functionality into a device already on the market, like the iPhone, gives consumers a chance to adapt to it before a new device is introduced. It also gives developers a change to flex their directional muscles because while fitness apps are the obvious first impulse there's much more that can be done with the M7, from very subtle directional corrections in maps to much more sophisticated layers added to geolocation.
For example, the information a travel or shopping app delivers to you when you are in a specific geolocation might now vary incrementally based on the speed at which you are moving or the direction you are facing. Think about it in terms of a visual technology like Google Glass and you'll really begin to see the possibilities.
For a long time now, mobile industry insiders have been betting that Apple would bypass NFC in favor of the next generation of Bluetooth and with iBeacon, it looks like this theory is finally validated. Bluetooth's biggest drawback has always been the strain it puts on battery life but iBeacon uses a newer standard, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that reduces the battery usage and opens up all kinds of new use for it.
The first, and most obvious, is the potential for better geolocation by means of Bluetooth transmitters, enabling brands to bypass the carriers for geofencing. This functionality can also be integrated into apps, initiating different content or ads according to the user's exact geolocation.
For example, iBeacon could be used to deliver a coupon or loyalty points to your passbook the second you step over a store's threshold or to tailor the content of an ad to the specific store you are standing in. There's also the option to enable one's device to trigger local events such as opening doors, turning on lights or sounds or kick-starting custom in-situ multimedia experiences – endless possibilities for home installation, conferences, trade shows, and in-store environments.
And, of course, there's the potential for contactless payments (validated by Touch ID).
Most interesting of all are the concepts of electronic leashing and peripheral push notifications, further validating the rumors about the Apple developing wearable devices. Your iPhone will now be able to seamlessly communicate with your desktop, laptop, tablet, or, of course, your iWatch, sending, receiving and transferring relevant data as you move across multiple screens in the course of a day.
Of all the new features announced, it is iBeacon that has the greatest long-term potential for app developers, advertisers, retailers, and the inevitable internet of things.
Say what you like about gold version of the 5S, but people like shiny stuff. Clearly, a lot of people like shiny stuff since the gold 5S sold out in a hot second and is going for thousands of dollars on eBay.
Is it a little flashy? Sure! Does it offend the delicate sensibilities of Apple fan boys and girls? Yes! Is Steve Jobs rolling over in his grave? I'm pretty sure he is, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.
One of Android's silent strengths has been the subtle message that it's a no-frills, egalitarian platform, unlike Apple, so famed for its high price tag and precious aesthetics.
By virtue of being unafraid to be more mainstream with candy colored plastic and shiny gold casing, Apple seems to be opening itself up to the idea of being a brand that's accessible to a much broader demographic. And, as discussed earlier in the case of the 5C, this is something it desperately needs to do to compete with Android on a global level.
Some say that Apple's reputation for innovation is its Achilles Heel, that its Jobson reputation for "surprise and delight" is getting in the way of the hard work that now needs to be done, fine-tuning the design and functionality of its mobile – make that multiplatform computing devices. I believe this is an accurate assessment of the how this most recent release has been received.
Everyone expects shock and awe, yet some of the most important innovation is happening under the surface. That's not to say that Apple doesn't have to worry about Android. Of course it does.
But with this seemingly mundane release (at least in public opinion) the company is putting in place the underpinnings of some very big, game-changing announcements within the next two years. It may not be playing out the way Jobs would have done it but rest assured, Cook, Ives, and Federighi know exactly what they are doing with the sixth generation iPhone and they are one step ahead of us all.
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