Viewpoint: Apple's iPhone launches no longer excite

 

Apple unveils the latest version of its iPhone this Wednesday. It will be the first since the death of Steve Jobs.

To mark the occasion the BBC asked Dan Lyons, Newsweek magazine's technology editor and creator of the satirical blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, to pen an article about the firm's progress over past year.

This is his provocative view.

Man uses iPhone in front of Apple logo

Somewhere up there, I can hear Steve screaming.

Back in 2006 I launched a blog where I pretended to be Apple CEO Steve Jobs. My alter ego, "Fake Steve," had a good run, but I shut it down in January 2011 when it became apparent that Jobs was in poor health. Nevertheless, even now, I'm constantly wondering what Steve would think about whatever Apple is doing.

This week it's the iPhone 5. Everyone pretty much accepts that Apple will introduce it, and there have been so many leaks that everybody pretty much seems to know what it's going to be. Word is it will look a lot like the last two versions of the iPhone, except a bit thinner and a bit taller, with upgraded guts and a refreshed operating system.

iPhone and Galaxy S3 being held Samsung's Galaxy S3 is outselling the iPhone 4S in some countries

If that's correct, I imagine Steve is not happy. First of all, he'd be furious about the leaks. Steve liked surprising people.

More important, is this really the best we can expect from an outfit that claims to be the most innovative company in the world? This is the sixth version of the iPhone, and the user interface still looks almost exactly like the original iPhone in 2007.

The hardware on the iPhone has been the same for two years, since the iPhone 4 and 4S were virtually identical.

Now, having had two years to plot and scheme, Apple's renowned designer Jonathan Ive has replaced the tiny 3.5in (8.9cm) screen with a slightly-less-tiny 4in (10.2cm) screen? Wow. Knock me over with a feather. What do you do with the rest of your time, Jony?

This is what happens when a company is too cheap to invest in research and development. Did you know that Apple spends far less on R&D than any of its rivals - a paltry 2% of revenues, versus 14% for Google and Microsoft?

No wonder the Android platform, where new models appear every week, now represents 68% of the smartphone market, up from 47% a year ago, while Apple slid to 17% over the same period.

In case you're bad at maths, let me work that out for you: Android's market share is now four times that of Apple. Four times!

Worse, despite all its bluster about innovation, Apple has become a copycat, and not even a good one. Why is Apple making the iPhone bigger? To keep up with the top Android phones.

Tim Cook launching the iPhone 4S Apple's stock has hit new heights under chief executive Tim Cook

(Phones that, mind you, Apple fanboys ridiculed at first.)

The problem is that the new iPhone won't really give you much more screen real estate than the old one. Worse, it looks ridiculous.

Apple also has become a copycat in tablets. Jobs once said the iPad's 9.7in screen was the perfect size, and smaller tablets made no sense. Then the Android camp had success with 7in tablets like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Google's Nexus 7, and now Apple supposedly will announce its own smaller iPad in October. Talk about thinking different!

What else is there to complain about?

Um, Siri still doesn't work. The oft-rumoured Apple TV doesn't exist yet, presumably because media companies won't let Apple take over their business.

The latest batch of Apple ads were such embarrassing garbage that Apple had to take them down from YouTube. Apple's new guy in charge of retail launched a plan to lay off workers and boost profits, then had to walk it back when people pointed out that this was stupid.

The big $1bn (£650m) patent "victory" over Samsung made Apple look like a bully, and also raised awareness of how good Samsung's latest products are.

Last month, Samsung's Galaxy S3, with its huge 4.8in screen, outsold the iPhone 4S in the United States, the first time any smartphone has outsold the iPhone in the States.

Apple got where it was by taking bold risks. Now it has become a company that copies others and plays it safe.

A company that once was run by a product visionary now is run by a number-cruncher - chief executive Tim Cook, whose claim to fame involves running an efficient supply chain and beating ever lower prices out of Asian subcontractors and component suppliers.

To use a car analogy, six years ago the iPhone was like a sexy new flagship model from BMW or Porsche. Today it's a Toyota Camry. Safe, reliable, boring. The car your mom drives. The car that's so popular that its maker doesn't dare mess with the formula.

Person takes photo of Steve Jobs portrait Steve Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976. He stepped down as chief executive in August, 2011.

Apple seems less interested in blowing people away than it is in milking profit out of the existing lineup. At this Cook is doing marvellously well.

Sales are booming and will top $150bn this year, with net profit margins of nearly 30%. That's incredible in any business, but qualifies as a miracle when you're selling consumer electronics hardware.

Apple has more than $100bn in cash. Its market value of $632bn makes it the biggest company in the world, bigger than any company in US history.

That's great for Apple's shareholders. But for customers, who cares? In terms of products, Apple has become the one thing it should never be. Apple has become boring.

Somewhere up there, I can hear Steve screaming.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 27.

    @ 15 maddog_uk_69

    "Under-used This is the first time the dock connector has changed shape in 10 years. Nice try though.".

    I don't see your point. I never stated that the dock had changed with every model. I stated that they change connectors; which they do, and which you accept when you state that the dock has changed.

    The question should be why do they change.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 26.

    ''Bigger screen means less battery life'' is not true at all. 2 months ago i brought a brand new samsung galaxy s2 and my mom brought a new iphone 3gs... now the S2 is more than twice as powerful as the iPhone and has a much bigger screen at a higher resolution yet the battery life on my S2 lasts longer than the 3gs... this is with wifi off, gps off, brightness medium ect. (so a fair test)

  • rate this
    +54

    Comment number 25.

    At last, the fashionistas have had their time.

    Apple lives in its own little world. I had the first 3 iPhones and they got worse as Apple decided it knew best.

    Android is increasing it's market share by utilising combined knowledge, namely of the entire world, to create a user experience that meets everyone's needs. Closed systems are closed thinking. This is an all inclusive world we live in.

  • rate this
    +57

    Comment number 24.

    All i ever seem to hear about is apple taking samsung to court for ''copyright infringements'' which is rubbish! Apple are shaking in their boots because they know samsungs galaxy series destroy the old hardware in an iphone. Apple need to have a look at themselves,im not gonna pay £450 for an iphone when i can buy a phone twice as good for the same amount of money! #justbecauseitsgotanapplelogo

  • rate this
    +59

    Comment number 23.

    This article reflects my sentiments exactly. Apple has lost it's innovative spark and is now a follower not a leader. Recent products from HTC, Samsung, Motorola and even Huawei show just how much Apple is just playing catch-up.

  • rate this
    +40

    Comment number 22.

    This is so true. Except for the bit where you seem to be suggesting that Jobs would have done it any differently. He would have done the same, because he had an amazing skill in marketing but was never that genius innovator he was portrayed to be. I am still amazed that people are buying iphone in 2012. There is nothing new or innovative in it, all about image and marketing.

  • rate this
    +15

    Comment number 21.

    As an outsider I can say I can't tell the difference between the products in a shop visually, just the price! and they are all over priced. Plus the OS is such a closed system (app's and everything) it won't win out against a more open Android. Apple have fell away, maybe they should continue to be cutting edge at something else because iphone isn't anymore. In my opinion only and with apologies.

  • rate this
    -39

    Comment number 20.

    Funny how RIM isn't even mentioned... and most business people I work with prefer their BlackBerry to their iPhone or other smartphone (apparently it's easier to type long emails on a BB than any other smartphone).
    iPhone is still king because the whole package is worth more than the sum of the parts, kind of like The Beatles (half-decent musicians, but "well-packaged").

  • rate this
    +49

    Comment number 19.

    Going to be interesting to watch how Apple nose dives from here, now they have become the new Microsoft :-)

  • rate this
    +126

    Comment number 18.

    @6 The Galaxy S3 is one of the market leaders for battery life. Better still, because it runs on Android, I can download apps like Tasker that allow me to save even more battery life. Furthermore, I can buy a spare battery if I choose. You can't do that with an iPhone.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 17.

    Surely only the iPhone runs iOS and lots of phones run Android. No wonder 4x as many phones use it!

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 16.

    Although the bubble hasn't burst and is unlikely to, it will surely shrink in size.. Every dog has its day and the one proud winning specimen is becoming a mongrel amongst the other cross breads.. There is nothing wrong with this but consumers are not stupid when it comes to gadgets and they will start to look elsewhere...

  • rate this
    -62

    Comment number 15.

    @Under-used This is the first time the dock connector has changed shape in 10 years. Nice try though.

    Everyone who follows Apple stuff knows that Dan Lyons shot his bolt with Fake Steve Jobs. That's why he has to write sensationalist nonsense like this in order to get any attention.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 14.

    @Wee_Fred

    You know that's just a mockup, right? No guarantees of any of those features or designs being in the actual product.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 13.

    The writer is playing Devil's Advocate... much of what he says is partially true, enough to allow an argumentative style to the article :-)

    Apple reduced to evolution for now, but they have a track record of producing revolutions... so I wouldn't bet against them just yet, they're still some way from being the next Nokia (Leaders to Bust in 2 years)

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 12.

    Samsung measured the average shirt pocket, and decided a bigger screen would work :)
    As for Apple, they play it safe because from their point of view "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Which begs the question, why do they even need to update the iPhone?

  • rate this
    +80

    Comment number 11.

    Apple are spending far too much time trying to sue the competition in court, rather than actually innovating new to stay ahead of their competitors. As proven with their intentions to increase screen size: Apple are playing catch-up, and it's only a matter of time before HTC, Samsung, Sony, Google and the OHA close-in for the kill.

    ...cue the incoming rage from the Apple fan-boys...

  • rate this
    +50

    Comment number 10.

    I've watched the iPhone 5 features video. Its longer, has a new dock, a finger print reader on the button and a new settings menu called "mission control".
    I just know everybody is going to claim apple are very innovative because of the finger print scanner and it will be forgotten that the Motorola Atrix had one more than a year ago.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 9.

    The apple tv has definitely gone into testing... It is making calls to API's that are now visible... been a long time coming.. #justsayin

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 8.

    The last time Steve left Apple it went down the pan

    This time around he isn't coming back and Apple is bearing this brutal reality in mind with any market moves the company makes

    In many respects, Apple WAS Steve Jobs and now he's gone

 

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