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

    Comment number 47.

    What happened to Dan Lyons used to be a question that people asked when he was 'fake Steve Jobs'. Now we know.. BTW he predicted that the iPhone 4s would fail. That was also good for a laugh. Agreed there is less excitement - the leaks eliminate any surprises with new products. One thing that no longer surprises me - Apple hater comments which reflect ignorance of Apple's many fine contributions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I've ever liked the Ethos of Apple. Following the $1billion lawsuit against Samsung, I dislike them a huge magnitude more. I will NEVER buy an Apple product. Ever!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I used to be neutral towards Apple but preferred to use competitor products.

    After the absurd $1 billion legal win in the US against Samsung, which is blatantly about restricting consumer choice, I seriously dislike Apple - and I'm sure I'm not the only one who now feels this way.

    Hope iPhone 5 flops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    @ 37.John "every single "smart phone" and their operative system is there because of Apple"

    Errr sorry Apple technology developed and as it did they slamed patient protection on it (as every company does) this protection stopped other companies whos technology would naturaly develop similar from doing so.. look at history Gem, windows 3, Apple all used a mouse to click on desktop Icons ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    all apple have done is take things to a newer level, they didnt invent anything, now that samsung, htc and co have done the same, its to the courts, silly show , dont go on about patents, theyre U.S patents for a U.S firm, apple are struggling to keep up because andriod is free of cost and free to choose, and others have put more power into the phones, faster better and can charge up off a usb.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    What i hate is they charge an extra 100 quid per doubling of storage whereas is cost pennies for the storage..Apple also buy in bulk making storage even cheaper..If i have to expand any card slot smartfone 16GB costs few quid, 32GB under 30 quid and 64GB cards now under 50 quid so Apple make nearly 200 quid profit between 16GB and 64GB model.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    I still have and use a Sony Ericsson p1i mobile phone. It's lasted me a good 5 years and works like a charm. Mobile technology is amazing but people honestly need to get over it. Lets face it, all you're ever going to use your phone for is checking your Facebook and sending a few texts. Simplicity works. And it doesn't need its screen size changing every few months either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @ 37.John "every single "smart phone" and their operative system is there because of Apple"

    Not true, Nokia brought out the Communicator in 1996 running Symbian - one of the first smart phones. Microsoft and HTC produced the XDA smartphones in around 2002 - 5 years before Apple even entered the market. Microsoft & HP produced a tablet PC in 2002. Who were th einnovators there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    "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. "

    Good point, Apple seems unaware these legal actions harm their brand. It either looks like they want to bully competition out of existence or else they're running scared with no new ideas of their own.

    Either way - not good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Awful article, completely disagree with everything and no, I am not an apple fanboi.
    I mean for one thing no one has a clue what the next iphone will even look like - who says all those leaked images are the final product???Did apple confirm this.
    And why would apple change the UI. Dont be stupid. Nobody changes a solid UI, not android, not MS, not even the linux community, so why would apple.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Another paid article, while you may have some very basic points this is a very silly, totally biased and absolutely shameful article. There is a tablet market because of Apple and every single "smart phone" and their operative system is there because of Apple, Samsung and Android take a cheaper market which maybe now Apple starts to be interested in, that's all. Samsung copied even the shirts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    "30 - FishFingers
    No other company gets a full article on BBC News with speculation and hyperbole before they announce their new product so why does Apple?"

    Apple has many fans along with enemies and as the world's largest company, people have a right to commend or condone them... I do see your point though and that is fair enough...

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I should add that I think Apple products are very pleasing to the eye, and great for people who don't like to personalise and tinker. Also, you have to respect the beauty of their marketing.
    Conversely, they are obscenely overpriced and by no means technological leaders. Apple lovers who cannot see this are a common breed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    It because Mac heads used to think that supporting Apple was a different way of thinking ! Now they are just another large company in it for the money.

    Personaly I think they always were .

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Bottom line is, iPhone are terrible... Apple are terrible. The entire OS is too restricted and controlled. its like having a limited account on a windows computer. you cant make any changes. you can only install app store apps and you must your it how apple want you to. whereas android is amazing and open source, and is constantly evolving... apple will try to sue samsung for everything #pathetic

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    The android operating system is the new windows monopoly of yesteryear. We will be serviced my microsoft once again as it squeezes out competition. We are deluded into thinking that we 'need' this stuff when most of the offer is actually what we 'want'. Iphone, Blackberry or Samsung, its a bloody phone...with email and browser - great, anything else - take it or leave it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    "30. FishFingers
    No other company gets a full article on BBC News with speculation and hyperbole before they announce their new product so why does Apple?"

    This is only days after several articles devoted solely to Windows Phone 8, even though that has only a 3% share of the market. The Beeb are playing fair here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    No other company gets a full article on BBC News with speculation and hyperbole before they announce their new product so why does Apple?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I agree with most of this article and I've been a fan of apple products for quite a while. Of late, they've been nothing but a let down and I can't see that changing with the iphone 5. However, I don't really understand why the Galaxy SIII is considered to be amazing. bigger screen, bit quicker because it's newer than the 4S. Where's the innovation there either?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    @Mel0dymaker 'Android is dogged by updates', this is a problem why? Improvement and evolution are bad things now? Anyway, they require minimal user input and are painless to install -> clever design designed to improve.
    @maddog_uk_69 Connector pins are the same, but dock shape changed with each model. More generally, why not have a standard USB interface? Universal, proved and... cheap. Oh.


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