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 67.

    @ 62.Freyja86

    Sir/Madam, I think you are confusing the wall plug unit, from the port on the phone itself.

    The EU directive states that all phones have to have the same physical connector, which iPhones do not, this mean’s Apple was able to launch, whilst other’s except RiMs “Blackberry” had to delay to completely redesign there products infrastructure, there are other ramifications.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 66.

    Also, Dan Lyons in this article just comes across as that bitter kid who's parents brought him a water pistol instead of a super soaker 'but who care's, super-soakers are overrated etc etc'.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 65.

    @56

    You are dead wrong about the EU directive. Apple DO comply with it. The directive allows for an adapter to take the place of a USB port on the device itself.

    The idea that the EU would ban a product because it DOES comply with one of their directives is ludicrous, and you are spouting nonsense.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 64.

    63.Daniel

    Firstly, who is OP?

    Secondly why are you fans so robotic in your unceasing adoration for this company?

    Thirdly, there's nothing "revolutionary" in technology; its all just work upon the other technology that came before.

    What's "revolutionary" about Apple is their "lock down everything and sue the rest" attitude to innovation.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 63.

    I do partially agree with OP that Apple is treading water slightly at the moment and it would be good to see them produce a truly 'revolutionary' device.

    However as they currently are Apple devices are still incredibly good - the in-house software/hardware design produces a level of unity (and simplicity) that other devices don't have.

    Also, not mentioned by OP; Apple app store > Android store.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 62.

    @ 56. Matthew
    I don't thinks there's a bombshell at all. Every iPhone cxomes with a standard USB data port/charger - it's just at the other end of the cable.
    It would be more useful if the EU would sort out vaccuum cleaners so that fittings from one model would work on another.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    @Under-used
    "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."
    Wrong.
    Most of the accessories include a selection of dock trays to suite the profile of whatever iDevice you are planning to use. The physical connector itself has not changed in years.

  • rate this
    +44

    Comment number 60.

    I have a personal HTC and a works iPhone, so my opinion is at least balanced instead of being blind fanboi.

    The HTC beats the iPhone hands down in just about every respect. But it's biggest advantage is that it's not annoying like iPhone is annoying.

    Having to use iTunes to upload and download media? What nonsense. And have you noticed, every smartphone with a cracked screen is an iPhone.

  • rate this
    -35

    Comment number 59.

    @ Kempez
    "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. "
    And there's 4 versions of a standard USB connector. But, what's at the end of an Apple cord? Yes a USB connector - don't see your point at all.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    In fairness to all the haters out there, one day you'll be right about Apple. But that won't change history or what they have contributed to the technology landscape over the last 30 plus years. So if you don't want to buy Apple, then buy something else. But whatever you do, stop moaning about it!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 57.

    Luckily for me I've never purchased any of this overly-expensive crapple stuff.

    Why? Because I'm not a mug easily swept away by marketing.

    Given a choice I would always avoid their products for a cheaper, better alternative.

    I personally hope they fade & die within the next 5 years.

    And if you don't like my opinions... boo hoo!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 56.

    @ 53.Freyja86
    Sir/Madam, I quite agree with your statements, however there is a major bomb shell in the pipe line. Which is the EU is seriously looking at banning iPhone sale’s until Apple comply with an EU directive on a universal connection aka modified micro USB data / charger port that all other phone manufactures have complied with Apple has???

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    "Its market value of $632bn makes it the biggest company in the world, bigger than any company in US history" - Ah, even Dan fell for it. "In US history" that title (still) belongs to Microsoft with a market cap of $856bn (accounting for inflation). Still, that's "only" few billion short, so a couple more lawsuits and they're golden!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 54.

    There is a real lack of innovation in criticising Apple. It used to be hipster cool to trash talk them down now it's just boring.

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 53.

    Apple are fantastic marketers and are pretty much promoting a fashion brand these days. They're now struggling to keep up with what everyone else is doing. Too much time in court, too much money spent on promoting their brand, too little time and money spent on new innovations.

    Upgrade time in a couple of weeks, can't wait to get my new S3!

  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 52.

    Negative comments about Steve Jobs aren’t right after all the man’s dead ; Unlike Apple which has major issues ahead, E.g. 4G in the U.S uses proprietary tech under licence from Europe and Asia companies / Countries. Apple has no right to manufacture 4G iPhones for Europe and Asian markets, if only it had not gone round suing everyone perhaps the industry could have worked something out???

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 51.

    Seems to me that Apple is fast following in the footsteps of Xerox, in terms of world domination spiralling downwards to near-extinction.

    Which is kind of poignant, really. Or karma.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 50.

    if i was an apple tree i'd screw apple through every court on earth,

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 49.

    Someone's pissed they just got a 4S and they can't upgrade to the new one... just saying.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 48.

    Agree with Dan. I do not think Apple is the most innovative company in the world by any standards anymore. They are not reimagining anything. The next version of the iPhone is going to have a camera with better resolution, a better Siri etc.. Just more functionality, but where is the WOW factor? Steve seems to have taken it with him. He must be making something new for the folks wherever he is. :)

 

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