September 13, 2012

Why I'm not wild about the iPhone 5

Yesterday morning there was wild speculation what the new iPhone would be like: what would it be named? What would it look like? What features would it have? And most importantly, what surprises did Apple have up it's sleeve that we didn't already know about?

The answer came later that day, in the form of the iPhone 5. And it quickly became clear that the answer was NONE. We had known it all for a while, certainly becoming clear in the two or three weeks leading up to the reveal. It turned out there was nothing new in the presentation, nothing we hadn't heard already, and so it became just a formality of sorts, to publicly announce this thing that everyone else had already figured out. To go back to the kids and Christmas analogy from yesterday, we the kids had already found the hiding spots, seen the receipts and thus knew what we were getting for Christmas. The only thing that remained was to open the package, knowing full well what was inside. "Oh, it's called the iPhone5, and it's, uh... taller. And it uses a different connector. Yeah, we knew that already. Thanks Apple."

Lack of surprises aside, what's fantastic and different about the iPhone 5? Nothing, as it turns out. They made it bigger. Gave it a slightly better camera and battery. Different maps. We've heard this mentioned in previous releases (iPhone 4 and 4S) but it bears repeating now: this isn't a revolutionary product; it's evolutionary. It merely advances the iPhone, building on what was there before but not significantly changing anything. You'll be able to do things a bit faster, take better pictures. But aside from being a little taller in your hands or pocket, it won't feel much different than the iPhone 4 or 4S you've had already.

Perhaps we're all being out of line here. Apple's iPhone is the most successful smartphone in history. To think that they would change things 100% is asking a lot. Businesses like to invent a winning formula, then keep it going. However as consumers we get bored, and we get tired, of the same old thing. And since it's been 6 iterations now, that tiredness has set in.

Everyone's looking for Apple to come up with something brand new. Take the iPhone and make a whole new design. To be fair, this must be tempered with a need to not alienate all the people who made this such a success and continue to use and rely on it every day. A balance that's hard to achieve, but if anyone can do it, I'd bet money that Apple could.

September 12, 2012

Why today's iPhone5 announcement matters

It's finally here.

For months the press has been beset by rumors, in bits and pieces. Speculation really. A small piece of news here, a new case with new dimensions and cutouts there. Hardly investigative journalism but tech blogs dutifully (and rabidly) gobbled it up and attempted to make a whole picture out of it. To determine the details of the new iPhone, like kids trying to find the hiding place of the Christmas presents before the big day.

But today's the day that matters. The day Apple formally and finally takes the wraps off the newest iPhone and reveals it to the world.

For months now pundits and bloggers have speculated on what the new phone would look like. In the beginning they said it would be rebuilt from the ground up, totally different. Time for a new design, we were told. 

Personally, I don't anticipate anything totally new or earth-shattering. No holographic display or keyboard (although I've seen mock-ups of a holographic keyboard that actually makes sense and looks SICK). However, in recent weeks the needle has fallen back closer to reality: it will mainly be thinner. Maybe a bit taller. And it will have a different dock connector.

So, everyone's eagerly anticipating today's unveiling. And why shouldn't they? For one, the iPhone is the most popular phone on the planet and has been since the first one was released. So this upgrade, and all the associated breakthroughs that will be unveiled along with it today, instantly affect those users, either now or when they inevitably upgrade. Second, just about everything Apple does in the mobile space is copied by others, be it Android, Windows Phone, Nokia, Samsung, LG, etc. Eventually some permutation of an idea Apple had will show up in someone else's device. Some historical data to back this up: complete touch screen phones were virtually non-existent before the iPhone. However, as soon as it was released, others followed suit. Now a complete touch screen phone is the norm, and we look at phones with keyboards as being quite quaint (looking at you here, Blackberry). The same thing happened with high-resolution screens, personal voice assistants (a la Siri), and the ubiquity of apps.  All pioneered by Apple, and copied by others.

So, today's iPhone 5 announcement really will be a bellwether for the mobile phone industry.
Who should care about what's announced today? Everyone.