Yesterday afternoon the mobile world briefly stopped turning, the internet, bloggers, twittersphere and other social media outlets braced themselves to be enlightened, enthralled and delighted by iPhone 5. In Korea, Finland and parts of the US, the boardrooms of other mobile handset manufacturers will have held their collective breath. And what did we get? A stretched iPhone 4s that’s been on a diet.
Well not quite, but anyone looking for a substantial form factor change and startling innovation had almost certainly already been disappointed by the numerous un-Apple like leaks. They had already told us what to expect, a bit taller, a bit lighter. In fact most of the announcement had been leaked in some way. And this post is not a review of iPhone 5, there are thousands of those already out there. Each with a view on the new features and most controversially the new input style
Rather it’s about where this leaves Apple generally in the smart phone market. The answer is almost certainly number one – if not in absolute numbers, Android holds that crown but this is an unfair comparison, one manufacturer versus an OS used by a whole raft of manufacturers – but in the hearts and minds of the trend setters, the tech glitterati, Apple will still hold a special place in their world. But for how long? There are a couple of small but significant things happening to Apple this morning, one is ridicule, most of us will have seen the iPhone 10 photoshop that is knocking about, The Tallest Ever Smartphone or the 5 Stages of iPhone Grief. This is unusual territory for Apple, not something they will be used to. The second and more important is that some pretty serious people are questioning their ability, or even their desire, to innovate any further in the smartphone space.
Some of the harshest criticism is reserved for Tim Cook. Steve Jobs was always going to be a tough act to follow and not just because of the personality. The problem is Tim took over when they were already at the top, king of the hill, with arguably only one way to go. Cost cutting, sourcing streamlining and profit maximisation seems to be the corporate mantra now, not Think Different.
Trouble is when you’re at the top the safe thing to do is absolutely nothing, why take risks? Tweak a little, change a bit, sprinkle some magic dust and there you go, another year of stellar profits.
Fact is though, those guys in the boardrooms of Korea, Finland and the US, they all slept pretty well last night.