39 Comments

Summary:

Apple’s new product line is out and some of the features are ones we’ve seen on other phones. Boy has the market changed since the original iPhone: Apple is adjusting more and perhaps leading less.

iPhone 5C camera

Apple’s Tuesday event has come and gone with two major new products announced: The iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C. but there’s a difference in Apple’s product line now than from just a few years back though. From where I stand, Apple has been responding more to consumer trends in the market instead of leading product categories with first-to-market devices.

iPad mini: Big experience in a small package Thumbnail

Take the iPad mini, for example. Steve Jobs publicly shared his disdain for small tablets and never said otherwise during his lifetime. Without a doubt the original iPad was a game-changer but the iPad mini? That was Apple’s answer to other small tablets already on the market. Have doubts? My January 2011 post of dumping the larger iPad for a smaller Galaxy Tab was read by Apple executives, who gleaned some great commentary from our readers on the topic of small slates. Clearly, the iPad mini wasn’t a market changer, but a market follower.

Need another example? After ignoring the growing market for large-screen devices, Apple created the iPhone 5 last year with a screen bigger than its predecessors. It’s possible that Apple always had plans to use a larger screen on its phone, but it sure never hinted at the possibility. Instead, the company continued to use the argument that its phones were better for one-handed use than the larger handsets people were interested in.

iphone 5 c red

Now Apple is offering a low-cost iPhone 5C starting at $99 with contract; a completely different sub-product for the iPhone line. In fact, after 6 years, this would be the first such sub-product. Apple’s iPhone sales are still growing, so why the need for an iPhone 5C? Cost. In larger markets — think China and India — Apple’s current iPhone is too expensive so consumers are turning to lower-priced Android devices. Again, Apple has to modify its business model to meet the market.

None of this is a bad thing, nor is it something unique to Apple. All companies must evolve their products and services. And all of these devices are outstanding. I bought both an iPad mini and iPhone 5 and don’t regret the purchases for a second. This isn’t about Apple’s latest products; it’s about Apple doing something that it really didn’t need to until recently: Adjust its mobile product mix to better compete.

And to me, that means Apple doesn’t drive the mobile market as much as it used to. Again, not necessarily a problem, but an observation that’s worth noting because the mobile landscape has definitely changed over the past 6 years and it will continue to change as competition tightens.

You can clearly see that Apple’s not leading as much based on some of the new iPhone 5S features: It has a low-power chip dedicated to reading sensors — just like the Moto X — and the camera has larger pixels. Why? Because “bigger pixels are better,” said Cook. He could have just asked an HTC representative to make the statement. The HTC One camera uses fewer pixels but guess what; they’re bigger too.

iPhone touch ID

Having said that, kudos to Apple for advancing its A7 chip, which now is 64-bit capable. That will improve performance and all for more memory in the future, although iOS runs really well on less memory than other platforms do. And I also like Apple’s innovative Touch ID: The new home button that’s also an advanced fingerprint sensor. It will surely help with authentication when buying items from iTunes. And in this hyper-competitive market, you can bet another handset maker will try to recreate the idea for its phones.

But is Apple truly leading innovation in this market like it once did? Not as much as it used to. Regardless, that’s simply a high-level observation as I have little doubt Apple will set sales records with its newest iPhones and iOS 7 software.

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  1. Apple is now in that era of it’s life as a company where it’s goal is to protect it’s success. They are no longer the scrappy upstart who needs to lead, they just need to protect the flanks and keep the profits rolling in.

    1. @John That’s what most companies mistakingly do, sustain. A very poor, short-term strategy.
      If Apple stops innovating they will become like those that will no longer lead: Dell, Microsoft, HP, thousands of others.
      Apple’s is setup to run differently by design to innovate.

      @Kevin clearly hasn’t looked at Apple’s history, they don’t release innovations on a yearly basis. They improve the few products so they are the best experiences for the user.
      Also, they don’t lead in any technology; so any Apple product compared to a single feature on another product may not seem to be better But it’s the combination of features than make an Apple product a superior experience. So you’re argument is not well founded.

      1. Buckignham, I totally understand Apple’s history. They’re good at redefining markets and then incrementally upgrading products to keep that market. I’d also disagree that they don’t lead in any technology: For years they’ve lead in the phone UI/UX space and in cameras on their phones.

        I do agree that the combination of hardware and software is what makes Apple products as good as they are. And they are good products. I just think the market leadership and vision isn’t where it was.

    2. I think you’re spot on John. And they’re still doing a great job at what they do, of course.

  2. Steve Jobs

    “no one wants flashed based MP3 players” – next year the iPod Shuffle came.

    “Video is unnecessary on an iPod” – followed by the iPod Video

    “7” tablets are DOA” – iPad mini came 2 years later.

    It’s not Apple that is reacting to competitors. Product design life cycles dictate that Apple was likely to already be working on the iPad mini as jobs panned the nascent category of small tablets.

    Many like to claim victory but really it’s just company poker. Strategically, Apple isn’t going to show all their cards and the best way to throw people off the scent is to pan a product.

    People overreact regarding innovation. Large technological shifts take 5-6 years (paraphrasing Bruce Tognazzini’s comments on the subject). During this time the competition catches up to the leader ….or so they think they are. Reality is companies like Apple are already looking for the next market to disrupt and have likely initiated the design process.

    Android came to market with the premise that multiple form factors would be possible and in fact they are. However, when you look at Motorola, Samsung and others it’s clear that Apple was correct a long time ago and Android look more like iPhones than iPhones look like Android. All things being considered i’m going to put my money on the trailblazing company to deliver again in the future.

    1. Great points. And when Jobs said the iPhone was 5 years ahead of competitors, it’s clear to me he was right. I’m looking forward to the next disruption.

  3. Well written article. I am an Apple user and I love their products, but I do see why they are starting to bend a little to the wants of the market to stay competitive. I still think Apple makes a great product, but I they do lose people to their prices, especially in this economy. I know so many people who have told me, I would love to buy and Apple product, if they didn’t cost so much. Thanks for the article.

    1. Yup, I’m surprised the iPhone 5C wasn’t priced lower thatn $549 to start without contract. Still could be a tough sell in many markets, but kids here will buy ‘em like hotcakes!

      1. Oh yeah, my daughter is already thinking about a 5C, she loves the colors. Should be interesting to see how well they sell.

  4. Joel McLaughlin Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    64 bit doesn’t necessarily equate more performance. More addressable memory which it COULD need in the future. However, in general it’s not about performance with 64 bits but memory. If your device is constrained by this, then 64 bit will help.

    Arm is ALMOST there with 64 bit and it wouldn’t be a stretch for there to be a 64 bit Android device very quickly.

    1. The A7 is based on ARM architecture so it’s extremely likely that there will be Android versions so long as Google has been working on the software side of the equation.

      1. Not extremely likely..LIKELY! Like in the next month or so. In fact I think some already are with 32 bit outside and 64 bit inside (or vice versa).

    2. Is iOS 7 a 64 bit OS? Or if you buy a 5S are you going to have a 64 bit processor running 32 bit software, as was the case with the Pentium and Windows many many years ago?

      1. You could take two seconds and look it up but I guess thats too hard. its a 64 bit OS on 64 bit hardware but is also 32 bit compatible.

        1. I don’t think a single article I’ve read has addressed that point. This one clearly doesn’t.

          But I’ll wait for someone credible to answer, as opposed to someone who’s just rude (but seemingly wants to respond to every post here).

          1. iOS 7 is 64-bit.

    3. True in some respects but not all. You have more to learn about 64 bit hardware and os.

  5. Apple is still the top brand in the world. Apple destroyed Nokia and Blackberry. I don’t even like Apple, but they still deserve respect until they do something really stupid. So far they’ve done everything close to perfect.

    Microsoft looks cool with their 41MP camera, but look at their newest phone, it doesn’t have it. No one can yet make that sensor in the volume needed at which Samsung and Apple operate.

    The aluminum case is also hurting Apple. People expect a sweet polished case, but getting it at the volume needed has been difficult. It’s not like Apple chose to use a smaller screen to spite it’s users, that’s the biggest screen size their material supply chain could support.

    1. Volume was only affected at the beginning of manufacturing not later. I’m laughing at your idea that their supply chain, which every other tech company envies, can’t support a larger screen. Ever heard of the iPad or iPad Mini?

  6. The Samsung phone and note 3 are taking over

    1. Of course they aren’t.
      The S 4 had manufacturing cut by millions of units and Samsungs stock took a dive because of it. The weird plastic leatherette Note 3 is not on sale yet. read any android forum and see how many android fanboys have dumped the S 4. Lots of them.

  7. Yet “the market” still consists of products that are iterations of Apple’s iPhone and iPad.

    I guess you could say the Galaxy Gear blazes a trail – through a mudhole, across a cow pasture and into an abyss.

    1. I guess you missed the parts about the features that Apple iterated from other phones. ;)

      Look, they may great products — I said that above too — but if you blindly dismiss the efforts of others to make great products, you’re limiting your perspective. Your choice, of course.

      And I’m not a fan of the Galaxy Gear. I don’t think its as bad as you say but it’s a rehash of old smartwatch ideas. I’m still waiting for the true innovation in that space.

  8. Buy Better Tech Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Author, 64-bit.

  9. Traditionally Apple bring in the new phone at roughly the same price as the old one and the old one gets a slight price drop.

    This is exactly what’s happened today except Apple decided to save themselves a couple of extra pennies by shucking the aluminium shell in favour of a plastic one.

    This is not a cheaper phone and at Apple’s ridiculous prices it’s certainly not aimed at developing markets.

    The 5C is twice the price of a Nexus 4, but in no way is it twice the phone.

    1. Do you seriously not know that the Nexus 4 is sold at or a little below cost?

    2. Also do you seriously not know that all the flagship Android phones not sold at cost by Google like the Nexus are as much or more than the iPhone?

  10. Are they doing either? One screen size is not responding to the market. A fingerprint reader is apparently not innovating (per a comment above). This is the third iPhone launch in a row that’s been rather disappointing.

    1. Hah. Yet each version has sold better than the one before it.

      1. Stupid is as stupid does. Lots of really poor quality products sell.

        1. As proved by the large sales of many inferior Android products. You get what you pay for.

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