iPhone 5 and Innovation
My first post on Opinno’s blog last October explored whether Apple could be “dropping the ball” with the release of the so-called “amazing” iPhone 4S. The device was merely an evolutionary upgrade from the previous generation—it lacked the 4G LTE connectivity common in many other phones, and the screen was still a smallish 3.5-incher. Many users complained that the “Siri” voice recognition feature was error-prone and lamented its inability to perform common tasks like launching apps. Apple lauded the handset as “amazing,” which it clearly wasn’t, yet the company’s devotees still snatched it up by the millions.
History often has a way of repeating itself, and this year’s iPhone release is no exception. After months of speculation, the iPhone 5 was released on September 21 in the US (release will be on the 28th in Spain), and the specs are similarly underwhelming. The phone now sports “improvements” that only finally bring it in line with its competitors. Where’s the innovation, Apple? And yet, the iPhone 5 smashed its predecessors’ initial sales figures.
As if that weren’t enough, many users have harshly criticized Apple’s new “Maps” app. Part of iOS 6, released concurrently with the new iPhone, the app replaces Google’s navigation offering, which had been a standard component of iOS until now. Software and handset upgraders alike have griped that Apple’s foray into cartography is full of bugs, from improperly located landmarks to cities and towns that appear to have been erased from existence. For its part, Apple has admitted the problem and has reportedly kept a team of developers “on lockdown” until the issues are fixed.
Apple’s competitors, meanwhile, are already capitalizing on the iPhone 5’s perceived shortcomings. Samsung, despite still being embroiled in a number of legal controversies involving Apple hardware and software, released a commercial that makes fun of the iPhone’s capabilities, most of which have been enjoyed by Samsung users “for a while.”
I’ll say it again: Where’s the innovation, Apple? The first-generation iPhone, released in 2007, represented a game-changing paradigm shift. It was a completely new kind of device. Apple is great at innovating, at shaking things up once in a while, but when it comes to actually improving on those innovations, it almost seems like the California giant purposefully omits features from one generation so they can squeeze more cash out of loyalists by adding those features the next time around.
I have a confession to make in light of all this. When Apple switched to Intel processors in its Macs in 2006, I immediately pounced and got one after having used Windows PCs all my life. I was an Apple loyalist for three years. But then I started to see that Apple had outright misconstrued the idea of “innovation,” the very thing it purported to be so good at. Instead of leading the way, coming up with new ideas that truly change the way we interact with others and with the world around us, it only does that once in a while. And frankly, I think it’s safe to say that all the big-name tech companies innovate once in a while.
So, after coming to that conclusion, I switched back to the trusty PC world and have even undertaken a systematic effort to “de-Apple” my life. I no longer use iTunes, QuickTime, or Safari. I own a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone and will probably buy a Windows Phone handset when my contract is up for renewal. I have seen through Apple’s clever façade. And I’m not going to let myself be lured back in.
Share your thoughts: What do you think of the new iPhone 5? Do you own one or plan to buy one? Do you think Apple is falling behind the pack when it comes to innovation? If so, what can competitors do to take advantage of this?
Luke can be reached at luke.jensen1981(at)gmail.com