Monday, 17 September 2012

iPhone 5 “Boring?” Seriously?

I’m finding the “iPhone 5 is boring” meme, well — boring, as memes more often than not tend to be. Conventional wisdom appears to be gelling that Apple has abandoned innovation with the new iPhone, some even suggesting that it’s creativity has peaked and begun a long slow decline.
Tech.pinions’ Steve Wildstrom notes that the iPhone 5 announcement of has unleashed a remarkable wailing and gnashing of teeth in the tech media, with for example Wired calling the iPhone 5 “utterly boring,” and the BBC running a review lamenting that Apple’s iPhone launches no longer excite; others suggesting that “Apple has become the new Microsoft,” and can’t innovate anymore. The Wall Street Journal fretted that now the question is whether the iPhone “can avoid becoming a bore.”
As Wildstrom sagely observes, “most of this nonsense seems to be the work of jaded writers who simply don’t have a whole lot to say,” but I do have to wonder what it would take to satisfy some people. Curved glass or huge display? Near Field Communication (NFC)? Wireless battery charging? Mini-fuel-cell battery technology? Biometric security (eg: voice or fingerprint). A new for the sake of new iOS user interface? Form factor change for the sake of change? Methinks that a lot of folks don’t understand that when you have a truly classic piece of industrial design, especially one as iconic as the iPhone, you are best advised to mess with it only very carefully, and in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary context. Or to put it another way, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

iPhone 5

Photo Courtesy Apple
A couple of analogical examples from the automotive world are the Ford Mustang and the Porsche 911, which coincidentally had their respective consumer launches within six months of each other in 1964.
The Mustang was and remains Ford’s most successful product launch of the post World War II era, and while it has gone through five distinct generations over the past 48 years, three of the five, including the current one dating from 2005, have stayed remarkably faithful to the original 1964 design styled in-house by a team under the direction of Project Design Chief Joe Oros that included L. David Ash, Gale Halderman, and John Foster, who had won an intramural design contest set up by then Ford vice-president Lee Iacocca.
A strong seller for Ford for nearly half a century now, the Mustang has been most successful during the intervals when its styling stayed closest to the original 1964 form factor, with its signature grille and headlight clip, side sculpting, three-element taillights and dual cowl dashboard, with the two generations that deviated most radically from that formula (the Pinto – based 1974-’78, and the early Fox platform based 1979-’83 models) proving to be slower sellers and less highly regarded by auto enthusiasts. However someone time-transported from 1964 would have no difficulty identifying a 2013 model as a Mustang.
With the 911, Porsche has been much more cautious about experimentation with the form factor originally sketched by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche in 1959. Like the Mustang, the Porsche 911 has been built in five distinct generations (and many sub-categories), but in its case all have remained unmistakably 911s in appearance. Again, our time-traveling car buff from 1964 would instantly recognize the latest generation, which was completely done over for the 2012 model year, as a Porsche 911, even though there’s not a single bolt, widget, or square inch of metal in common with the original ’64 model.
But does this long-term continuity of form factor recognizability mean that Porsche and Ford have given up on innovation with the 911 and Mustang? Of course not! Both cars remain in the top-tier of their respective market categories in technology and performance. And sticking with a classic design in either case has enhanced rather than diminished user value and experience.
It’s the same with the iPhone. Of course it’s been around only five years — not nearly 50 — but anyone who’s ever seen an iPhone will have no problem identifying the iPhone 5 as one, even though there’s likely not one part or molding in common between it and the original 2007 version. As with the Porsche and Mustang, it looks familiar, but has been completely redesigned — a thoroughly modern machine inside a classic form factor that’s been made 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than the iPhone 4S even though it has a larger display with in-cell touch technology and 44 percent greater color saturation. The iPhone’s enclosure is now made of precision machined, diamond-cut anodized aluminum with highly-polished champfered edges and glass inserts. Apple chief designer Jony Ive also describes in a video how each individual iPhone 5 enclosure is photo-analyzed on the assembly-line and instantly matched with the best fit from a selection of 725 minutely different-sized rear panels, the differences measured in microns.
Inside that enclosure, the iPhone is powered by a new A6 system-on–chip that Apple claims is up to twice as fast as the iPhone 4S’s A5 SoC and offers longer battery life as well, plus 4G/LTE high-speed wireless connectivity, and a smaller camera with upgraded lens performance and durability. There’s also the new 8-pin Lightning dock connector (my candidate for the mixed blessing category in this upgrade).

As Macworld’s Christopher Breen observes, the iPhone is now a mature rather than an emerging product, and that heretofore product refreshes will be more in the order of refinements like faster processors, better cameras, better battery life, and compatibility with faster networks — all of which Apple delivered in the iPhone five, but he laments that “for people addicted to sparkly changes, thats infuriating.”
Perhaps so, but what’s missing in the iPhone 5 is mostly gimmicky stuff or technologies only partially developed and not ready to satisfy Apple’s standards, and to say that Apple has quit innovating is simply not true. Jony Ive says this iteration of the iPhone taxed Apple’s capacities to the limit, and I don’t doubt him. A lot of what’s new is under the hood, so to speak, but will be enjoyed and appreciated by users in improved performance. I think Steve Jobs would’ve been proud of this product.

Sold Out! iPhone 5 Sales Shut Down Apple Pre-Order

Early iPhone 5 sales are living up to even the loftiest expectations, with iPhone 5 pre-orders getting pushed back a week due to massive consumer demand.
Last year, you’ll recall an oft-cited survey that predicted that the 35% of consumers would own an iPhone 5. That 35% wasn’t qualified by “smartphone users” or “Apple enthusiasts,” or any other limiting demographic — it stated that 35% of all consumers would own what would eventually be the iPhone 5. If Apple’s own market research revealed the same findings, it’s no wonder they named their sixth generation iPhone “iPhone 5.”
but if you thought those early sales estimates were little more than economic hyperbole, guess again — right out of the gate, iPhone 5 is living up to the sales hype. Cue the hand-shaking andy grins on Wall Street — another big Apple earnings report is on its way.
According to reports, it only took an hour to drain iPhone 5 reserves set aside for the pre-order sales period. From Computerworld:
“Apple today exhausted its supply of the iPhone 5 within an hour of opening its online store for pre-orders, and now is telling customers that their orders won’t ship for two weeks.
AT&T, Sprint and Verizon still showed a Sept. 21 delivery date for new orders as of 11 a.m. ET, however.”
It’s possible that the moved-up release iPhone 5 — almost a month prior to the 4S in 2011 — could have played a slight part in the new iPhone selling out so quickly, since Cupertino perhaps had one less month to amass iPhone 5 units. But selling out in an hour suggests that even an extra month’s lead time wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
What these sales demonstrate is that the voice of dissent regarding the iPhone 5 is a minority voice at this point. Another worthy note is that, in the end, Sprint managed to get its act together in order to have their version of the iPhone 5 release alongside AT&T and Verizon. today, I was reading an article on CNET today that made the point: “For iPhone 5, it may be cheaper to jump carriers than upgrade.” One wonders if Sprint could benefit from a strategy like that?

And lastly Does the 5 in Apple’s Invite Mean 5 New Products?

As we all know that new iPhone has been announced, we are now exited to take a look at five new products announced by apple as well. Here’s the list:

  • iPhone “5″
  • iTunes 11
  • iPod touch
  • 9-pin Dock Connector called “Lightning” internally
  • “Earpod” earphones

The Dock Connector could be stretching the five products, but why can’t I if Apple is stretching the next iPhone screen?  :-)
But regardless of that particular outcome, we’ve seen plenty of evidence in 2012 to suggest that Apple is done with being ultra-cryptic. And maybe it’s because being too cryptic is turning out to be too tumultuous for their bottom line.