Thursday, 13 September 2012

Why all the long faces? iPhone 5 was never going to change the world

I could - if I were a positive person - be feeling quite smug about getting 10 from 12 predictions about the iPhone 5 launch right (see below). As it happens though, I'm rather annoyed with myself in that the two things that I really thought would happen and mark a true "iPhone 5" - a new name and a new case design - didn't happen.

And I'm not alone. Online commentators of all shapes and sizes are up in arms about the "safe" iPhone launch. This is a small problem for Apple (poor lambs) in that everything they say is expected to be revolutionary. iPhone 5 will be a massive success, but it will never have the impact of the original iPhone or of the iPhone 4 when it appeared.

Why? Because the iPhone is now a cash cow. A BMW 3 Series. It's the best in class (and the new specifications suggest that it will comfortably remain so), so radical innovation in it is now far too risky for Apple to contemplate. Slow evolution, premium pricing, clear and powerful marketing will guarantee its success.

In A6, they have the best processing engine in the category. They have the only cool brand in the sector, arguably the best screen, the most practical phone size, the best ecosystem by a significant distance. Oh, and they've now got LTE and what looks like a high end base band to support it.

Apple won the smartphone battle years ago when it made everyone else follow their lead. Now they're consolidating, and there's no one out there who's innovative enough to stop them.* So we were never going to see big changes this time. A 4" screen was enough.

What we might now see is an iPhone 6 (rather than a 5S) with a new case design this time next year. The ergonomics of the iPhone 4 design are fantastic, but the look is beginning to age.

The competition need to find new categories to win. As a clue, it ain't tablets and it ain't laptops. Apple are winning there too. I go on about it a lot, but for me the next big thing is heads up display. Perhaps Google will own the next cool category.

Or perhaps Jobs left Apple with a couple of other good ideas that are yet to emerge.

*: Besides Google in terms of radical category innovation and Nokia in hardware.

**: An aside, I note that the market liked the iPhone 5 and rewarded Apple with a nearly 2% uptick. Brokers love a cash cow... and have learnt not to bet against Apple.


  1. Any thoughts on the 4G dilemma? Can it really be right that O2 and Vodafone's 4G networks (when finally rolled out) won't work with the iPhone 5?

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