Apple – Once an innovator, now a follower?

Posted by Ross Coundon on September 24, 2012

With the much anticipated launch of the iPhone 5 last week came the usual hullabaloo, glitzy media events, absolute secrecy (ish) streamed live all around the world.

Afterwards were the usual queues of expectant consumers camping outside of Apple stores all around the world (Something I’ll never quite get my head around) but for what…?

When the iPhone 4S was released many were disappointed that it was more of an interim release with only minor changes over the previous mode. It seems to me that, with the release of the iPhone 5, many commentators and consumers have been left with a similar feeling.

Yes, it’s slightly thinner. Yes, it has a 16×9 widescreen. Yes, inside it’s more powerful but these aren’t game-changers. Apple created the market for smartphones but now their unrelenting pursuit of their competitors through the courts show that they’re afraid and it’s causing them to take their eye off the ball.

Samsung, with their line of Galaxy smartphones, have been tremendously successful. A couple of years ago they incorporated a bigger screen despite many saying that it would result in a handset that was too large but were proven wrong as all the Galaxy models have been a runaway success. Samsung also released a 7” tablet (although not many sold) and Apple said the consumer had no need for a tablet of that size but are now rumoured to have just such a thing in development.

In the past Apple have been bold, creating a touch interface OS incorporating intuitive gestures, launching it on an MP3 player and then on a phone. The market said, “it’s going to be just an MP3 player a phone built in” but Apple saw the huge potential for mobile apps. No such thing had been done before and Apple led the way.

They also created the market for the tablet computer from nothing. They used to innovate and create demand; give the consumer something that they just had to buy even though before its release they never knew they wanted or needed such a thing.

I just don’t see this happening any longer, now Apple seems to be reacting to the market rather than creating it. For instance a lot has been written about the lack of NFC (Near Field Communications) in the device. Apple has said that the market isn’t there and that too many players are fighting for their piece of the pie and they didn’t want to get into that. My opinion is that the Apple of old would have seen this situation as an opportunity to dominate a market. They have billions of users’ payment details within iTunes, this would have given them a huge head-start in shaping the mobile payment market. Instead, they’ve shied away from it.

I’d like to see Apple stop thinking about destroying their competition in the courts and instead focus their efforts on innovating; once again creating the beautiful products with breathtaking design that will create new markets and demand. Only then will we see them challenging for honours once again.