Apple in almost all its new product launches heralded along with its software “improvements” hardware that would take the smartphone and tablet “mass market” industry a step forward. Against fast growing competition they sustained it with the IPhone 4, the IPad2, the IPhone 4S and then to a lesser degree the IPad3.
On the two areas emphasized
- Mass market is key, as there would always be a a few niche products specially in the Japanese market that would be far ahead of hardware that Apple would feature on their devices
- Improvements in software, is a very sensitive topic as Apple’s marketing up managed to successfully reinvent the wheels with so many features that actually have been on phones sold world wide, but somewhat rare in the US, a market where “smart phones” actually only got picked up very much later thanks to Apple. The world had already got used to Video calling (Nokia had this many many years ago) and Skype did this on most smartphones prior to Apple reinventing it and calling it FaceTime. Some of the new highly touted software features for messaging has been with Nokia phones for years, and people outside the US consider this normal features
While not an Apple fan by a mile, the way Apple have pushed the market to adapt smartphones has been phenomenal, and more importantly how they took the tablet market when others who really invented the concept just went nowhere is an indication of how Apple’s marketing drives consumers. Which is why i own after much thought got an IPad1 and subsequently an IPad2, which i consider a formidable reader, though iTunes limitations are frustrating.
However the arrival of Android from Google for the first time brought a platform that evolved faster than what Apple had faced previously with Symbian and Windows Phone. Android must have been a gift from heaven for the OEM Chinese phone market that previously had obscure operating systems powering their phones, and the growing threat of ZTE and Huawei indicates how the Android has enabled these manufacturers to grow exponentially.
Apple’s key suppliers Samsung learnt quickly and started their own products, just like ASUS learnt from being OEM for HP/Compaq in the PC market, and it seems the speed of growth has not gone well with Apple, with Samsung now becoming the World No 1 for phones surpassing the long time king Nokia, and now the key competitor for Apple in the smartphone market.
However amidst all this Apple always managed to use its control over vendors to bring products that had hardware that pushed things ahead. The GPU was always the industry best, the processing along with the software optimizations made it one of the fastest, and though late into the camera market, again they managed to top this only second to the Nokia products that sadly had more camera than smartphone in them due to the slower paced development of Symbian.
When the Galaxy S3 was released, and along with it the HTC One X, and some very promising products from Sony Xperia, and after a long time Nokia with their new Lumia Windows 8 Phone series, the world waited for Apple to bring something totally unique with the IPhone 5 launch.
But what a surprise, what a let down, the IPhone 5 had Apple fans wondering why they had to upgrade their IPhone 4/4S, and spec to spec the Android and Windows Phone 8 products stood tall for the first time. Samsung, HTC, Nokia, Sony designers and engineers must have slept soundly, though i do hope they don’t go to sleep for too long. Apple really should have called this the IPhone 4S+, or 4S Advance, but i forgot they can’t because that maybe Samsung or HTC copyright!
- The Camera, same as the 4S but smaller sensor. However the Galaxy S3, HTC One X, Nokia PureView 808 and possibly the Lumia 920/920 have already gone far ahead in this area.
- The Screen, 1136×640. The “Retina” in the IPhone ruled, the 4S with no improvement still remained competitive. The new screen just helps it compete, as the S3 and Nokia screens are offering more pixels (1280×720/800) and super quality screens and the new screen maybe better but its not ground breaking. Sony and HTC not going the AMOLED way offer excellent LCD based units. 4″, bigger but the industry has moved to around a 4.5-4.7″ for touch based phones. However this is one area i feel Apple is more closer to what a smartphone should be, as based on my usage a 4″-4.2″ is the best for single handed usage. However the 16:9 form factor makes the phone too narrow, and the older chubbier format is far better on usability
- The Processor and Graphics, 2X the performance of the 4S, but the quad-core Samsung chip, the dual/quad-core Krait and quad-core Tegra3 processors already do this. Seemingly Apple maybe basing their products on the A15/Krait processor, if so this is the same platform the rival are using, innovation nah. Even the almost $200 quad-core smartphone from China may match this if not now, within a few months!
So what remains is the iOS, the super closed platform that builds around the hardware, that drives developers to develop software simply because people in the developed countries buy apps by the dozen, 90% of which they will never use, but just buy because its popular or because its on discount!
This explains why Apple went to its utmost to get the ruling in court against Samsung its most competitive rival who is not just making competing phones, but has finally started to innovate on the software aspect and are now producing products that surpass what Apple markets.
Apple just like what Microsoft managed to work out with almost all leading Android phone manufactures wants a patent cost for each device from the Android phones, and it knows if it wins one case it can then take on the rest.
Innovation has now been unleashed and HTC and Sony both who are extremely talented in developing truly good looking phones (compare any Xperia to an IPhone, the IPhone looks like an outdated brick) are definitely are focusing, and Sony’s break away from Ericsson has unleashed a whole serious of exciting phones.
What is most interesting is that Nokia a company that has amazing cameras coupled with proper lenses in their phones along with great designs may have the Operating System with Windows Phone 8, and I truly hope Microsoft does not let them down as they did with Windows Phone 7, if not Nokia must move with Android as they have long dumped a true jewel in Meego which only got featured in the design trend setter the great N9.
So for the next few years we may not see Apple as what Steve Jobs portrayed, but see Apple “innovating” more in the courtrooms rather than in their products and services…. What a change… Apple fans start looking elsewhere, there are true great devices with very good operating systems which are far more open (yeah you can copy stuff from your PCs easily, they have SD cards for transfers and storage expansion, they are far cheaper, they have far superior cameras, etc, etc), and don’t worry all the apps you need you will find in the Android and Windows market. It’s the hard core users such as gamer’s who may still want to hang around, but that too may change.. Oh yes it will….