Archive for the 'Analysis & Commentary' Category
It has been a wonderful near decade of SvenOnTech. Birthing from a personal b2 blog as far back as 1999 and evolving into SvenOnTech that took me to meetings with amazing people with incredible product. I even was able to watch a private concert for thirty meet a childhood guitar hero of mine. I have had a wonderful time here on the World Wide Web and my little Web Log.
Sadly, time and funding I just no longer have, and so on the even of SvenOnTech’s 8th anniversary, it is goodbye. The site may remain here – or not – for purposes of history. Maybe it will come back alive. Either way, I loved reporting on tech and loved all those I interacted with. I made many good friends and hope to make many more through other “lives” here on the Internet.
Thank you, and goodbye.
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again
So Apple flaunted it’s Playskool iOS 7 interface to the world at WWDC along with the a slew of new features to the silence of most who cared. Yes, the first few rows applauded and cheered but those were Apple employees and board members. They’re delusional. While I have already discussed the problems with the update that really isn’t more than a slap in the face to those that love a good and useful user interface as well as desire envelope pushing from Cupertino, I neglected to touch on two important items. The Big Missing Features. Did you read all the Tweets about the lack of Widgets? Or the Facebook posts that there is no Active Icons? There’s a reason for that and I’ll tell you what that is.
First, I do have to touch on the irony about the icons. For years, Apple plastered a 73 on its Weather icon which was meaningless. Then it finally updates its old and tired looking home screen with kids Crayola art and even gives us a ticking clock icon…but yanks the number from the Weather icon instead of actually adding the current locations temperature! What immense irony that is. Ya, I know, Android has been doing this for years but Apple doesn’t care what user want. Have you seen iOS 7?
So what is an Active Icon you ask? This is where the icon actually takes on some life, such as the weather example. In a sense, Apple does have some activity on icons such as Message, Mail, and Phone with the number badge. However, being able to simply look at the Weather icon and immediately see some clouds over the sun and 78 for the temperature beats tapping the icon and waiting for the app to refresh for the same bit of information. For some reason, Apple doesn’t get that.
The most blatant omission from iOS 7 are Widgets. Widgets are objects found on the home or lock screen that give you access to an application; however, these widgets also tap into the app with information such as a blip of emails, some posts in Facebook, or trending tweet,s and oh yes, some weather, too. Widgets basically make your smartphone, well, smarter. If you’re curious what your missing, take a look at TechRepublic’s 15 Android widgets that will make iPhone users jealous. Again, Apple doesn’t get it.
Why? The home screen is the first thing a person sees of a phone. With the two-to-one margins of Android to iPhones in the wild, most are familiar with the Android screen. So, imagine – even with the hideous child’s play art – Apple placing widgets in iOS 7. What would be the first response from users? “Oh, it looks just like the Androids screen.” Can you envision what that would do to Apple’s pride? Sure, 99% of iOS 7 is already Android features but the average user doesn’t know that but the Widgets are immediately identifiable to Android even to the casual user. If customers uttered the comparison to Apple’s mobile rival, I’m pretty sure Steve Jobs would jump out of the grave and strangle that person!
Sadly, Apple has built this self-loving empire of pride, just look how long CEO Cook spent on the stupid pie chart of how many Android users were still using an operating system from 2010. Apple is repeating the same ills it did with the original Macintosh and it is headed down the same road of bad fate. While the rivals have taken Apple’s incredible idea and pushed it to its limits, Apple simply keeps telling the world, “Look how cool we are!” Eventually, even the clueless consumer grows tired of this and sees that competition really does have more to offer. Apple has decided for the third straight year to offer the public nothing substantial in the next iPhone operating system and this long-time Apple fan is already looking to move from iTunes Match to Google Play. I’m tired of living in Androids past. Good luck, Apple. You’ll need it with your current corporate strategy.
It took a horrible user interface and ripped-off features to draw me back to my technology blog. Yes, Apple’s update to the iPhone’s operating system is such an irritation that I just couldn’t keep silent. Unlike a spec of sand inside a clam, this irritation sadly will not produce a pearl.
Bowing to pressure on an old a tired interface, Apple finally previewed its first significant update to the mobile phone that changed the smartphone world at its developer conference WWDC last Monday. No one was surprised by the announcement but the lack of excitement was obvious when it was unveiled. Aside from the first few rows of Apple employees and friends of the company, such as Board Member Vice President Al Gore, smiles were far and few in between. Shock was a more common expression. Ironically enough, the acclaimed designer Sir Johnny Ives seemed to have let some elementary children create the icons for iOS 7 as simplistic was used to the extreme. Like a sixth-grader confined to his or her world, one finds the need to inquire with the little chap to solicit what the four bubbles icon represent. Oh, that’s for Game Center? Yes, bubbles totally convey that message. The petaled color wheel for Photos is not much better. This is from a company that prides itself on the principle that anyone can pick up its product and start using it. I’m not sure how many people are going to tap a compass icon expecting Safari or that other compass icon expecting Safari. What a mess.
Gone is any depth, though Ives is quoted as saying iOS 7 has more of it. The shadows and texture are all gone – characteristics of depth – leaving flat bland colors. There is more blinding white backgrounds than ever and baby blue all over the place. Tappable items such as “buttons” are simply now just text and one just has to assume tapping the word will execute the command. Again, not a feature any computer illiterate could figure out on their own.
Speaking of features, where were the new ones? I mean the real new ones and not the stolen ones! Every feature Apple mainstreamed on the big screen at the Moscone Center could be found on an Android device, today. Not this fall. Today. SVP Schiller came out introducing the newly radically designed Mac Pro shooting off a comment about not innovating any more, “My ass!” Granted, the new cylinder super Mac is pretty amazing, but were was that same type of attitude with iOS 7? It’s lacking was because of the clear absence of Apple innovation.
Control Center, the ability to do things like disable Bluetooth, adjust brightness, and select Wi-Fi, is nothing new but something iPhone users have begged for ever since seeing it in Android’s Notification Center. In fact, when Apple announced its Notification feature last year, many thought this ability would be found in it. Nope, users will end up waiting another 18 months from that release for it. Almost two years! That’s crazy.
True multitasking comes to iOS 7 and the ability to see running applications looks just like it does on an HTC device. An Android. If you’d like, you can go back even further to 2009 when Palm first introduced the “card” concept with webOS. It’s nice to have real multitasking on iOS – in the Fall – but again, this is far from a new feature.
I found the new simple lock screen somewhat comical since Apple has made such a big deal of “Swipe to Unlock” in the Samsung lawsuit. Now iOS 7 will have a very simple lock screen with a large display of the time…just like Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich.
The update to the music player with iTunes Radio looked so much like Google Music it was comical. The concept of streaming music isn’t new and in fact the market is crowded with choices. After Steve Jobs bemoaned the idea of steaming music because, “people want to own their music”, Apple finally enters the game (with four bubbles?) after the dirt finally hardened on Jobs’ grave.
Not even that tricky looking 3-D background is new. Nope, the feature known as Parallax has been available for Android for sometime in the form of a third-party application called 3D Image Live Wallpaper. Heck, take a look at it in action from SlashGear’s videon on YouTube. Yes, fully disappointing that something so cool STILL isn’t an Apple innovation.
I’m sure like the makers of 3D Image Live Wallpaper, other vendors were not happy seeing their hard work and ideas up on the Keynote presentation branded Apple, either. Mailbox campaigned brilliantly for its simple and powerful application with its easy to use swipes that – gasp! – are coming to iOS 7 Mail as well. Go figure! Oh, there’s more swipes – pun intended – buried in iOS 7 including one that draws from one the companies Apple has nearly put out of business, BlackBerry. Like BB10, if you swipe to the left, you’ll be taken back to the previous page. Amazing.
Now all these features taken from others that are available today on a competing hardware won’t even grace an iPhone until this “Fall”, whenever that is! That’s three months at best, SIX at worse! By that time, I guess there will be a slew of new features for Apple to pick off the tree from Android for iOS 8.
Tim Cook told Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco that, ”Innovation is strong as ever and in the DNA of the company.” This from a company that has been playing catch-up and suing it’s competitors for the past two years other than really innovating. Noting that the smartphones and tablets are the backbone of Apple’s cash cow Cook underlined its “experience” is the true force of Apple’s innovation. ”Apple has skills in software, hardware and services. The model that grew the PC industry where companies specialized. That model is not working for what consumers want today,” said Cook. “Consumers want this elegant experience.” Why service definitely helps pack Apple Stores and customers snap up shiny new products, it’s not the only thing that keeps them buying. No, true innovation keeps them coming.
Apple brought itself into a new era, and market, with the iPod. It innovated a product that the founder of the MP3 player, Rio, couldn’t manage. Then again Apple innovated a product that was birthed elsewhere and took away the smartphone market from Palm. Lastly, it showed Microsoft, the company that first brought the tablet to us in 2001, how to really innovate.
So now Apple has over $100 billion in the bank, packed stores, and enjoys the majority market share for tablets, smartphones (hardware), and even still for audio players. But all those numbers are slipping and show little sign of reversing. Sure, Cook can tell worried investors that the market is just increasing in size and it still has a larger chunk than it originally had, but those are excuses, not innovation. Instead of showing the world anything of great significance in the last three years, we simply hear how great Apple is and nothing more. No talk of the future. No talk of pushing the envelope. No talk other than a nice shined marketing speech.
Apple’s last true innovation was the release of the iPad in 2010. That’s three years ago and in that time, the Android Army has been hard at work chipping away at Apple’s market dominance and even forcing Apple into a product it bad-mouthed later that year. Steve Jobs famously told investors, “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. ….7-Inch tablets are dead on arrival.” Dead, huh? As not to further damn his himself, Jobs went on to state, “While one could increase the resolution to make up some of the difference, it is meaningless unless your tablet also includes sandpaper, so that the user can sand down their fingers to around one-quarter of their present size. Apple has done expensive user testing on touch interfaces over many years, and we really understand this stuff.” Last I saw in the Apple Store, the iPad mini does not come with sandpaper. No, Jobs didn’t understand that the market actually DOES know what it wants sometimes – another famous saying Jobs liked to quip – and Apple’s own Eddie Cue urged Jobs to his death bed to let Apple make a 7″-ish tablet. Clearly, innovation was ignored, bad-mouthed, and fought before it was it acknowledged. Of course, in classic Apple style, it was quick to point out that the iPad mini isn’t really a 7″ tablet and it has “features” that improve the experience of an Android tablet. Please…
Moving on, let’s look at the iPhone now. Again, a truly innovative product when introduced, Apple seemed to slow down the gears of innovation and trickled out features year by year. Even though 3G was active in nearly half of AT&T’s network, Apple waited until the second generation to release a phone that supported the faster data speeds. Outside of that, the iPhone 3G had little more to offer than a new look. The camera still sucked, battery life was still dismal, and the OS had little advancement.
Apple continued this little-by-little strategy with each release all the way to the iPhone 5. Instead of caving into the larger screen that has pushed sales of the Samsung Galaxy S III to a market leader and the talk of the town, Apple stretched the screen and chimed about how it was still easily used one-handily. That, was its innovation. Apple’s previous yearly trickle of innovation was Siri. Siri, the voice-to-text software, was an application in the App Store for about a year that gained much attention when it first was released. Quickly scooped up by Apple and re-established as an integrated aspect of the operating system, Siri was reborn an Apple innovation. No, excuse me, as a beta. Now as we near two years – in beta – Siri is nothing more than a feature to ask it silly questions and become extremely irritated at its inability to send a text message that is even 40% accurate or – heck – even finish your sentence as it often just gives up leaving a partial text output. In the meantime, Google released it’s Google Now app for the iPhone with stunningly quick and accurate speech-to-text. No, it’s not beta, either.
I could go on about how iLife, once considered a stunning collection of multimedia applications for the Mac, hasn’t even been touched in over three years and languishes away or how its extremely expensive Thunderbolt technology two years later lacks a plethora of accessories. Financial analysts bonked Apple over the head on the market a few weeks ago after Apple produced its best quarter ever. Why? Analysts see little in the future to hold Apple up and the numbers are indicating this. Apple continues to be mute on future product and shows little innovation in the last three years. Sure, the Retina display has dawned screens across the board, Bluetooth 4 graced wireless devices, and a great camera in the phones. But it’s not enough when compared to the competitors. Instead of really kicking its competitors butt, Apple sues them. Real innovators respond with, “Top this!”
History shows that Apple is on a four-year cycle of innovation. The iPod, iPhone, and then iPad. That gives us about a year before the next big thing. Many think it’s a TV and I can see that. Apple’s true innovation is taking something that already exists and making it better. TV sales have declined and consumers aren’t fooled by bells-and-whistles such as 3-D. The networks are the issue for release just like the labels were for the iTunes Music Store. I feel Apple can overcome that opposition but without Jobs, it will be tougher.
What after the Apple TV television? I can’t imagine that the road map goes dry after that. I’m sure what ever it is, it’s already on the books and is being ironed out. But will anyone care by then? While the four years worked in the last decade, competitors and patent trolls have changed the landscape accelerating change. Apple has already shown with the last two iOS updates, iPad mini, and the iPhone 5 – to a point – that it does better at catching up than pushing the competition. If it doesn’t wish to become the next Sony – one of Steve Jobs’ biggest fears – then it needs to stop this madness of its delusional outlook on innovation and actually innovate again. Stop riding the gravy train and trickling out features. Apple had the money to demand LTE chips that are low power consuming a year before it finally hit the iPhone. Apple had the money to make Siri actually work…upon initial release. Apple has the money to force new technologies to market quicker than the other guy. Jobs pushed Corning for a glass iPhone when its own CEO said it couldn’t be done. Apple shoved a desktop operating system into a handheld device while others said it couldn’t be done. Apple can do it. If it wants. Right now, it looks like it just wants to pats its own back. Ask Sony how that’s working, Tim.
So here we are, post-iPhone 5 announcement and guess what? Nothing envelope pushing. In fact, nothing even surprising. Every leak was true. Every one! While Jony Ives called the iPhone 5 a “complete redesign” (I’m sorry, did his head get stretched, too?), on the contrary, it’s mostly catch-up with whom Apple just sued (hint, hint, Samsung). In perfect Apple style, with Steve Jobs Smoke and Mirrors, Tim Cook and crew made yesterdays technology look freaking amazingly new!
“The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone.”
So states Apple’s web site when you go looking for the details on the 6th iPhone called the iPhone 5. Shaving off some body fat to give it a leaner and lighter feel, the diamond cut shell consists of the two-tone color scheme seen in early prototype images dating years back from the Apple vs. Samsung case as well as reminding one of the first the iPhone. The screen is stretched up – not out – to add an extra row of icons and to give you a true 16×9 image for movies. Storage hasn’t changed in years but the price remains the same. Nice. Oh yes, the camera has a new cover. Oooh! Ya, it’s still the same otherwise. The front camera is at least 1.2 megapixels and can capture 720p video. So last years Android.
Ya, so let’s talk about the Android factor. So while Cupertino’s tech magicians attempt to use their slight of hand to pawn off the iPhone 5 has “the most amazing thing” they’ve ever done, how does it compare to let’s say Samsung Galaxy S III? That front camera? Well, double Apple’s and you’ll then pass its court rival. The screen? The Galaxy S III has 1,280 x 720 versus Apple’s amazing 1,136 x 640. Yes, Apple’s is smaller and it’s 20 ppi better Retina display isn’t that big of a deal. The Galaxy is a wee bit heavier but it’s not even by an ounce. Tell me you can feel that? Earlier benchmarks show the iPhone barely running faster than the months old Galaxy. NFC? Are you kidding? Phil Schiller says Passbook is way better! Screw NFC!
The iPhone 5 does not even support simultaneous voice and data on Verizon and Sprint networks that AT&T has been doing for four generations now. Don’t worry, though, the Samsung Galaxy S III does support this feature on LTE networks such as Verizon’s due to some true engineering know-how. But don’t sweat it people, remember, this is “The biggest thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone.” Now that I think of it, wasn’t there a handful of 3G phones available when the original iPhone with EDGE (2.5G) released? Sorry, got distracted.
The truth is, the iPhone 5 is all catch-up and nothing revolutionary. I wouldn’t even call it evolutionary. This is the exact issue Apple had with the Macintosh back in the 80s when it rocked the computer world with a truly stunning computer. Apple seriously put personal into the personal computer. But like Apple letting Microsoft along with IBM steal its thunder and push the envelope with Windows and the PC while it kept trying to tell the world, “Hey, look at how cool we are!”, Apple once again is repeating history with doing nothing and calling it something. Last weeks keynote was the first in over a decade that had no surprises and was – if you’re honest with yourself – a let down. Everything the iPhone 5 is the Android market has had in Motorola, HTC, and Samsung for months if not over a year in the case of LTE. Even when Ford put on a new skin to the Fox body Mustang in the 80s, everyone in the automotive world still knew it was still the crapy old 70s car with some new hardware. That’s what this is iPhone is, a third re-iteration of a tired design with a new engine under the hood.
So how do you sell 2 million iPhone 5s in just one day of pre-orders? And that’s the million dollar question. One thing Apple does still have down is sex appeal and that’s what its products produce. Even though there’s only a new coat of paint on a stretched out canvas, it’s still cool looking and all the hip people will have one. Additionally, to give credit to Apple, it’s operating system is still more refined, stable, and polished than the fragmented and heavily customized interface per vendor offering from Google. Buyers also know that all iPhones from the last few years will get a brand new update all on the same day unlike the guessing game over in the Android camp. But note my words, this will be the last time Apple will enjoy such sales as it will the iPhone 5. Google is snapping up companies left and right to tighten the noose on Apple and as soon Android is able to get sway over iPhone users over with some migration plan away from the Apple halo as well as tighten up the Android operating system, we will be calling Google the new Microsoft and Apple the, well, the same Apple of the 90s once again. Learn from your past Apple and push the envelope all the time or be doomed to repeat it.
As we inch just hours toward the next iPhone announcement, we now have a few more leaks that may point us to five new products to be announced. Here’s the list:
- iPhone “5″
- iTunes 11
- iPod touch
- 9-pin Dock Connector called “Lightning” internally OR iPod nano
- “Earpod” earphones
The Dock Connector could be stretching the five products, but why can’t I if Apple is stretching the next iPhone screen?
My final prediction before the Apple’s announcement Wednesday is that it will not be called the iPhone 5, iPhone 4SS, or any other varient other than the new iPhone. Simply, it will be called, iPhone. Now before you label me insane and an idiot, just take a read of what I have to write about this name and why Apple is slowly changing the smartphone market once again like it did when it entered the phone industry.
If you read my article “Why The iPhone 5 Won’t Be the Last One to Look Like the iPhone 4″ (read it!), then you’ll understand the first part of this equation of bringing the PC era into the smartphone era. Slowing down the form factor change to a more reasonable time table as seen in the computer industry, Apple is not content with just changing the look of its phones every four years or so like it does with its current line of desktop and laptops. No, it desires a uniform convention for all of its products. Look closely and you’ll only find the iPhone with a model number. iMacs? Nope. MacBook Airs? Not there. MacBook Pros? Negative. Mac minis? Uh-uh. Well what about the Apple TV? Not on your life. What about all the iPods and its variants? Ixnay on the model-say. Oh wait, the iPad!! Aaah, now we’re getting closer but Apple axed the model name with the most current release; hence, the altered graphic here.
Folks, along with the iPad ditching the number 3 for it’s third release, I see Apple executing the same with the iPhone. Many were a bit perplexed - even stunned for some – that Apple was not going to call its newest tablet the iPad 3. Sure, everyone still calls the new iPad the iPad 3 (I’ve even overheard Apple Store employees in Sacramento refer to it as such,) but that will be long forgotten in a couple of years when the fifth-generation iPad is released. It will simply be the iPad with fifth-generation only stated for differentiation and only then by geeks.
“But the iPhone is different. It’s a phone,” may be the next rebuttal. Yes, it is a phone but who cares? This is Apple. Apple does what Apple wants not what the market enjoys. Again, just look back to the iPad as proof that it doesn’t have to follow what Samsung, ASUS, or Motorola does. This is Apple.
For those that think the Cupertino company that once had Computers in its name isn’t big on change in the way it does things, may I remember you that the iPhone for its first three generations released in late June or Early July. The iPhone 4 was bumped a few months later to September all while the press said no it wouldn’t do it early on because of the iPod announcements and such during the same season. Whelp, guess Apple did.
No, as my final forecast for the next iPhone, I am pretty certain it will be the new iPhone. Too many indications point to it with the leaks of the same body design being the strongest evidence along side the iPad just being the iPad today. Sure, I could be wrong and completely be reading way too much into the subtleties of the last six months, I won’t deny that; however, my gut and years of observing Apple says that the biggest surprise Wednesday will be the name, not the product.
There has been much talk about how the leaked next iPhone stretched screen isn’t good enough. Proportionally larger is what the public wants and demands based on what I’ve read in comments to my other posts and from what I hear in conversation with others. But this is Apple whom boasts about how it does not care what the customer wants but gives them what they need. This would be such a moment.
Android has done an interesting job of expanding the original 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone to points of wondering if you’re placing a small paperback on your ear rather than a phone like seen with the Galaxy Note and Dell’s ill-fated stab with the Streak. Motorola, HTC, and Samsung seem to have a following with its larger phones where the screen grew both in length and width gaining kudos mostly from those using GPS and video apps. Bigger is better, right? Well, not in Steve Jobs eyes. He had discounted the larger screen in previous iPhone events calling them clunky and difficult to use with a single hand which I agree with in my experience of such phones. But longer. Mmm, Steve never bad mouthed longer.
Many sites have shown off what possibilities of a longer screen would be like most notably the extra row of icons. Interestingly enough, however, the bulk have neglected to show off movies. You know, true HD moves that are in the 16:9 ratio. Apple moved to this very ratio with its Cinema Displays years ago and wedged them into some of its laptops. Moving the iPhone into the same Hollywood neighborhood makes sense. So much so, one has to even question if the iPad mini will be a 16:9 ratio device. But let’s not get off topic with the iPad mini rumor and stick to the iPhone 4SS (second S for stretched) we have all come to love to hate in the last few months.
Investigating deeper, we have witnessed that Apple has proven content is king with iTunes and the App Store. Jobs was fierce in his pursuit to bring all of the major studios to then iTunes Music Store and broden Apple’s appeal. It has done so very well, and now that its hobby, in the form of a black hockey puck, is doing impressively wonderful, it makes absolute sense for Apple to press on with true HD presentation. Watching a movie or TV show or even a YouTube video for that matter without black bars but rather with a filled screen is what perfects the package. When the laptops and home displays were “stretched”, very little notice was made of this and life went on. In fact, the change was so benign that it has been forgotten by the majority of the tech press and thus why the parallel to the iPhone is missed.
Apple loves all things perfect. It ignores market requests for this reason and instead gives the world a no exceptions product. This doesn’t excuse Apple for making the next iPhone taller if the leaks are true or am I stating I like it. Apple through its fiber as knitted by Steve Jobs does things very differently than the rest of the tech world and this is merely another example of that. This iPhone most likely was the last phone Jobs had direct influence on and stretching it to improve the video experience from his point of view would make absolute sense. If all the early analysts predictions are correct that this will be the best selling iPhone ever, then this may be Steve Jobs’ swan song.
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?