This entry was posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012 at 21:34 and is filed under Analysis & Commentary, Smartphone. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Leaks, leaks, and more leaks abound to what the next-generation iPhone will look and basically it looks like last years iPhone and the iPhone before that. Yes, essentially, the iPhone “5″ looks just like the iPhone 4 released in 2010 with a few minor changes. That will make it three full years with the same body design before another opportunity for a new look to appear in Apple Stores across the world. But the question is, will there be a completely redesigned phone by then at all?
Remember when Steve Jobs famously spoke of the end of the PC era in the last years of his life and yet? Well, we see many of the PC practices finding its way into the iPhone. I’ve already touched on how the last operating system, iOS 5, and this years pending iOS 6 has had little change in a my “Android Phones Blast Past iPhone But Still Lag in OS Updates” post other than catching up with the competition which is a tell-tale sign for what’s to come in the future. Apple historically loves to innovate with amazing new products such the Apple I and II, Macintosh, iPod, and iTunes, but then it leaves them to languish and ignores the great leap of advancement that the competition applies to its own copy of Apple’s original. Why do you think Apple went after Samsung so forcefully? Apple needs to protect it’s original concept since it gives the general consumer no other reason to ignore the competition.
Let’s look deeper at Apple’s adoption of PC, or Mac in its case, era cycles. When it released the Apple II, no one was up in arms when the II+ was released and looked identical to the original. Likewise when the IIe hit the streets nearly seven years after the first II, again, no outcry how the case still looked the same. The Macintosh that appeared on Super Bowl Sunday in 1984 looked the same as the Macintosh SE/30 six years later. The rest of the Classic Macintosh line continued along this way.
Remember when the iMac hit Macworld’s stage with Steve Jobs keynote in 1998? Now that was a change for the Macintosh. Heck, even it’s name was changed. But again, it wasn’t until January of 2002 did we see a fully newly dressed iMac and it would be another two-and-half years before the iMac G5 in its white shell and flatscreen coolness premiered.
I could recount the same slow process of change for the Mac Pro (which still has yet to even be updated with a single Thunderbolt port let alone get a true remake) that is so long in tooth that many believe it will simply just be discontinued. The Mac mini has also changed little since its introduction in 2005. Same story can be made for the laptop line as well.
Do you see a pattern here? It’s not in the manufacturing blood of the PC industry to make an entirely new fresh design every year – even for Apple. The iPhone was an entry into a completely new industry for the Cupertino computer company. It was forced to play the rapid design cycle of the phone industry in order to stay noticed. Now that Apple has established itself as the essential phone to have, it no longer feels to the need to radically change its image every two years. Indeed, it now is comfortable with transitioning the PC era to the smartphone era. Yes, I mean keeping the same “tired” look for years to come with only minor facial changes with most of the oomph coming from the engine bay like the auto industry has done for nearly a century. This is why the iPhone 4S was exactly the like the 4 sans the antenna band fix. This is why the iPhone 5 will be just like the 4S but just stretched out and some modifications to a port here and there. This is why the iPhone 6 will be just like its predecessor with changes to the CPU, memory, radio, battery, and other internal pieces. It most likely will not be until the iPhone 7 will we find any dramatics applied to the iPhones exterior.
Okay, so there’s the reason for Apple’s thinking, that is if I’m right about all this. Let’s just say I am for the sake of argument… and making me look good. Is there anything wrong with this approach? Well, no… I guess. Think about it. I’ve already pointed out that we’ve been more than happy with our desktops and laptops changing little year to year so why would we care about what goes in our pocket? Seriously, how much can you differ a rectangle? I can remember all the Nokia case replacements I had for my 3650 and 8260 that ranged from translucent to various shades of the rainbow to even built-in LEDs that would flash when the phone rang. But the case was still the same case in shape. While I could venture to my local mall and view the hundreds of variations of cases at one of the pads in the middle of the walk way between Rogers Jewelers and the Gap, I still had the same phone. Sure, I strived to change it in some way, but it is no more different than slapping a case on the iPhone today.
Let’s look at the reverse notion. During the turn of the century, we did indeed find companies such as Nokia, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola, and Samsung looking to differentiate one model from the next year after year. It encouraged consumers to ditch their current phone for an entire new one putting money into the coffers of the company with the best design. Apple certainly responded to this pony race in the beginning with fashioned elegance. Today, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, and new comers like HTC continue to change the landscape often while frustrating iPhone users with the same old tired look of the iPhone 4 base. Chances are, these companies will continue pushing the design to new dimensions no matter what Apple ends up doing and that may pry money away from Apple. Maybe.
So, Apple looks to have taking the baton from the PC era and ran with the “keep it (the) same stupid” for design and work on the interads. Now as to iOS 5 and iOS 6 playing catch-up to Android, that’s a different story (see that link above), but Apple is in fact swimming upstream like a salmon ready to spawn when it comes to sticking with what “works”. And while I find it humorous to have one of the most incredible designers in the world on your payroll such as Jony Ives, I guess even he can’t come up with something cutting-edge every 24 moths. The question is, will this backfire or will it become the new standard in phone hardware design?