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 1007.

    I love my Blackberry!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1006.

    I gave my dog an ibone for Christmas but he chewed it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1005.

    990.The Elegant Cary Grant said:

    "13 inches? any bigger than 4 to 4.5 inches and it won’t fit in your pocket."

    I can fit 13 inches in my pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1004.

    “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”

    Keep it small and this guy criticizes make it bigger and he claims copyright infringement. I’m pretty sure you can’t copyright “size”

  • rate this

    Comment number 1003.

    I tried to avoid apple with my first smartphone was an HTC Desire HD, it was unreliable and destroyed burnt SD cards, the Android OS was unstable, as a result I paid £500 for a iphone 4 its been worth every doesn't live up to the demands a premium price as it is better product end of story....iphone 5 and IOS will be equally stable and all the way

  • rate this

    Comment number 1002.

    @The Elegant Cary Grant

    i think you missed the point there, when the only change is barely any change at all, whats the point in changing it? would you remake an entire phone and then start remaking them again just so you can scrape off half an inch of plastic at the bottom? cause it would make just as much difference as that change did.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    Excite !!! some people need to get a life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.

    Hmm.. I think you're totally wrong, but as I only have about 400 characters to play with, all I'll say is that I own a Nokia Windows Phone, an Android Galaxy Nexus and an iPhone, plus tablets. I can compare like with like dispassionately and I can see that all you've done is clearly persuade the BBC to let you 'troll' Apple fans for 'lulz'. No space for detailed argument though, so summary it is

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.


    "What has exactly?"
    Really, you can't keep track of three comments in the debate to know what I was referring to? I'm amused.

    "Nearly, cues and features... not exactly copies!"
    Nearly identical = premeditated copy. That should be obvious.

    "Really? Where in your world?"
    Linux is the backbone of servers, routers, Android devices, TV sets... it's everywhere.

    Carry on with the trolling sir...

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    @983 That's how things used to be in the smartphone world before Apple weighed in with its lying, bullying, stealing and control freakery.

    Not sure about the smartphone world as it was pretty niche before Android/iOS etc weighed in,but this has been going on for years depending on what OS/hardware/games console etc people use

    People (on both sides) come out with a lot of rubbish to be honest

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    point is, maybe the iphone has peaked. And no Jobs to think of something new. Android might peak next year, so instead of just being fanboys it would be great if people suggested what the mega-corps should do next. personally, i'm looking forward to a brain-implanted smartphone that runs off excess calories so you can stuff yourself with fried mars bars and charge your phone in one go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    It's scary the amount people will pay for the Apple logo. Android phones are better all round, but people pay over the odds for the Apple logo.

    I'm sure if Apple brought out a cassette tape, the Pro-Apple fans would be banging on about how great this cassette tape it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    I wonder if they will give a free adapter to the new port, so they don't screw over all those people with speakers and add ons. Or will they simply see it as an opportunity to sell another tiny adaper for £20 and make more millions from the congregation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    972. Paul You are wrong my friend. No PC or MAc is needed to set up an iPod out of the box.

    But well done for your contribution - good effort!

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    The reason apple haters hate isn't primarily because of the gadgets, it's more about the users: apple fans just won't shut up about their gadgets, and have a condescending and insufferably smug superiority complex purely based on conspicuous consumption of wealth, often found with other designer and premium goods. There's nothing wrong with disliking bad mannered shallow people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    Q Paul

    "Having got a Galaxy S2 and an iPad, I can say that the iPad is harder to use than the Android."

    Errrmmm... sorry, isn't an S2 a phone, not a tablet??

  • rate this

    Comment number 991.

    I have an HTC Mozart - Windows Phone 7. I didn't pay a penny for it since it was free on a cheap contract. I would choose it over an overpriced Apple doorstop any day. It's fast, simple, and has a good music/app store, and I didn't have to give up part of my soul to own it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    Apple's renowned designer Jonathan Ive has replaced the tiny 3.5in (8.9cm) screen with a slightly-less-tiny 4in (10.2cm) screen

    How big should a phone screen be? 13 inches ? any bigger than 4 to 4.5 inches and it won’t fit in your pocket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    Who cares what Dan Lyons wrote, its just his "Viewpoint". Between 6PM and 7PM tonight we will find out exactly what the New iPhone will bring.

    I've noticed tho, the people who moan about iPhone and iOS are Android users. Actual iPhone users keep quiet, quietly smug that thier hardware 'just woks!'

    I think we all need to calm down and see what tonight brings..........

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    I love Apple products.
    The support is excellent.
    I love Ford cars.
    I am Borg.
    People are allowed opinions.
    Why do Apple haters, hate so much ? Is it envy maybe at the cost. Or hate to have a device where there is control ? So what !
    If you dont like the product, then dont buy it !
    If you cant afford the product, then dont buy it !
    So many people ahve iPhone's including me. We are a collective.


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