Tuesday should see the announcement of the next iPhone. Purportedly the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C (Details on what is known thus far at iMore) with modest improvements over the current iPhone 5.
There’s no doubt that the next iPhone will be the best iPhone Apple has ever created. And I am nearly certain that it will be the best smartphone available on any platform. But an increasing number of users are relying on their smartphone to do more and looking for more than what the iPhone offers.
Once Apple disrupts a market by releasing a new product, it generally makes incremental changes to that device to make it better and better, but never really making large jumps in technology or features. We can see this in the iPhone, iPad, even iMac product lines. The initial products were revolutionary in every right, the updated products were just evolutionary. That’s good for most users, but I’d argue that in the case of smartphones Apple is being left behind. In this instance, the smartphone user base is maturing faster than Apple is innovating. And that’s costing them users and mindshare.
iPhones in particular and smartphones in general have rapidly become the number one computer used by a large number of people. Those people want more and more features, faster devices that do more in every way, and integrate with their lives to a greater extent. And let’s be honest, everyone likes to have the fastest, best, most lust-worthy device out there.
Well if what we know about the to-be-announced iPhone 5S – the flagship of the iPhone line – is true, Apple is certainly falling behind other options in innovation. As great as the iPhone 5 was (and is), it was met with tepid response as many saw it as just a refresh of the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 5S is less of a change and will surely see many of the same comments. Many users are maturing faster than the iPhone line and looking more and more at other platforms. Many have already jumped and as contracts end, many more are likely to. There are many reasons for this; here are just a few of the bigger ones.
Cloud Services – To be honest, iCloud is a bit of a mess. It’s under-featured, years behind, and stuck in this odd once-per-year update cycle. It’s way overpriced, underpowered, and under featured. Many users of iPhone also have Mac desktop/laptops. There’s no reason, three years on, that all of my data isn’t available everywhere, all the time, on every device. Dropbox can do it, Sky Drive can do it, Google can do it, why can’t Apple?
There’s also no reason that all photos, all videos, all music, all data, all everything isn’t seamlessly available on all of my devices, anytime, anywhere. The current system of Photostream, iTunes in the Cloud, iCloud, iTunes Match, etc. It’s just too fractured, too many rules, too many exceptions to the Apple credo of it just working.
iOS 7 – Whether you like the new look of iOS 7 or not, it is a good first step toward a new iOS. Perhaps too small of a step for as late as it it. There are many great features under the hood for developers, but most still want more. I rely on my iPhone, it’s never more than 2 feet from my hand. Why doesn’t it integrate better with my life and the way I use it?
In the past it has seemed that Apple pushes many of these life integration features off to app developers and that’s fine. But if that’s the way forward, app developers need better access to core OS features like the start screen and multitasking. Some form of widget/home screen update is vastly overdue as well to allow access to data quickly without the need to launch an app. And why can’t users replace the pitiful built-in apps like Calendar, Reminders, Calculator, etc. with third party apps? Seems silly to continue to restrict that.
Multi-user access – iPads are used in families by multiple people. Why hasn’t Apple created a multi-user system to allow better, restricted, and safer access when used this way? Android does, Kindle does, even Windows Phone does. Apple has the number one family computing platform, this is two years overdue.
Android has taken off respect to new interactions and interfaces, with mixed results it must be said. But the ability to communicate with your device in new ways and new ways for your device to communicate with you is something that the iPhone is way behind on.
Hardware Choice – right now you can buy an iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPad, or iPad mini. iOS users, like users of any platform, want choice. Why not offer something in the 6″ range? How about something with a larger battery? I’d take something thicker for 2x battery life.
So does all this mean that the iPhone 5S will be a failure? No, not at all. It will be the best smartphone available, for most users. It just won’t be held in the high esteem that some of the previous models have been. That will hopefully be a wake up call for Tim Cook and Apple.
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